"남자의 부축을 받아 파티장을 나간 것까지는 기억나는데 일어나보니 침대였다. 술에 약물을 몰래 탄 것 같다." vs "파티 때 서로 눈이 맞아 잠자리를 같이한 것이다. 풋볼스타인 우리를 일부러 곤경에 빠트리려고 거짓말을 하고 있다."
스타, 술, 마약, 성관계, 소셜 미디어….
탤런트 박시후의 성폭행 여부를 둘러싼 진실공방이 가열되는 가운데 박시후 사건과 여러모로 닮은 미국 오하이오 강간 사건이 '피해 여성'의 승리로 일단락됐다.
오하이오주 법원은 17일(현지시간) 술 취한 16세 여고생을 강간한 혐의로 기소된 스튜번빌 고교의 트렌트 메이스(17)와 말릭 리치먼드(16)에게 유죄를 선고했다고 일간 USA 투데이와 AP 통신 등 주요 언론이 일제히 보도했다.
미식축구 선수인 두 사람은 미성년자 성범죄에 관한 오하이오주 형법에 따라 소년원에서 최소 1년, 최장 5년 동안 옥살이를 하게 됐다.
억만장자 풋볼스타를 꿈꾸던 두 학생의 인생이 꼬인 것은 지난해 8월이었다. 미식축구부 파티에서 또래 여고생과 술을 마시고 '동침'한 것이 화근이 됐다.
며칠 뒤 피해 여성은 파티에서 추태를 부리는 자신의 사진이 소셜 미디어와 메신저에 돌아다닌다는 얘기를 듣고 분노했다.
소문이 사실임을 확인한 그는 파티에 참석한 남학생 5명을 집단 성폭행과 강제추행, 명예훼손 등의 혐의로 고소하기에 이르렀다.
검찰은 이들 중 피해 여성과 자동차 뒷좌석과 주택 지하실에서 성관계를 한 두학생을 성폭행 혐의로 기소했다.
그러나 두 학생은 "사전 동의에 따른 화간이었다"며 혐의를 강력히 부인했다.
이들은 피해 여성이 술을 마시긴 했지만 성관계를 하기 전에는 정신이 멀쩡했다며 억울함을 호소했다.
이에 피해 여성은 "아침에 눈을 떠보니 낯선 집의 침대에 누워있었다"며 "내 휴대전화와 귀고리, 속옷이 모두 사라지고 없어 너무 무서웠다"고 말했다.
피해 여성은 집을 나선 뒤 차에 동승한 두 학생에게 "대체 무슨 일이 있었던 거지?"라고 물었던 기억이 난다며 이를 근거로 술에 취해 정신을 잃은 상태에서 성폭행을 당한 것이라는 주장을 폈다.
재판은 반전에 반전을 거듭했다. 피해 여성은 파티에 참석한 자신의 여자 친구들이 불리한 진술을 해 연일 구석에 몰렸다.
심리에선 피해 여성이 평소 거짓말을 많이 하고 술을 과하게 마신다는 새로운 사실이 드러났다.
사건 다음날 그가 한 친구에게 "맹세컨데 절대 성관계를 하지 않았다"고 말했다가 며칠 뒤 "아무런 기억이 없다"고 말을 바꿨다는 증언도 나왔고, 파티 때 자신이 원해서 사진을 찍었다는 주장도 제기됐다.
그러나 재판부는 검찰의 주장을 대부분 수용해 유죄로 판단했다.
피해 여성이 술에 취한 사실이 인정되고 사건에 연루된 남성이 2명이란 점, 남학생들이 피해 여성의 사진을 소셜 미디어에 유포해 명예를 훼손한 점 등을 고려한 것으로 알려졌다.
'외압'에 법원이 무릎을 꿇었다는 지적도 나오고 있다. 스튜번빌 주민들과 여성단체들은 하루가 멀다하고 시청사와 법원에 몰려가 "마을의 명예를 실추시킨" 학생들의 단죄를 요구하는 시위를 벌였다.
재판을 앞두고 유력지인 뉴욕타임스는 수사를 담당한 스튜번빌 경찰이 모교의 명예를 지키려고 사건의 실체적 진실을 은폐했다는 의혹을 제기해 파문을 키웠다. (연합뉴스)
<관련 영문 기사>
2 high school ball players in US convicted of rape
Two members of a celebrated local high school football team were found guilty Sunday of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl, and Ohio's attorney general warned the case isn't over, saying he is investigating whether coaches, parents and other students broke the law, too.
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison in a case that has rocked this Midwestern U.S. city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the Steubenville High team, which has won nine state football championships. Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the underage girl naked.
They can be held until they turn 21.
The two broke down in tears after a Juvenile Court judge delivered his verdict. They later apologized to the victim and the community and Richmond struggled to speak through his sobs.
“My life is over,” he said as he collapsed in the arms of his lawyer.
The crime, which took place after a party last summer, shocked many in Steubenville because of the seeming callousness with which other students took out their cellphones to record the attack and gossiped about it online. In fact, the case came to light via a barrage of morning-after text messages, social media posts and online photos and video.
“Many of the things we learned during this trial that our children were saying and doing were profane, were ugly,” Judge Thomas Lipps said.
Immediately after the verdict, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he will convene a grand jury next month to investigate whether anyone else should be charged. Noting that 16 people refused to talk, many of them underage, DeWine said possible offenses to be investigated include failure to report a crime.
“This community desperately needs to have this behind them, but this community also desperately needs to know justice was done and that no stone was left unturned,” he said.
Among those who have been interviewed are the owners of one of the houses where parties were held that night, the high school principal, and the football team's 27 coaches, many of them volunteers.
Text messages introduced at the trial suggested the head coach was aware of the rape allegation early on. DeWine said coaches are among officials required by state law to report child abuse. The coach and the school district have repeatedly declined to comment.
Mays and Richmond were charged with penetrating the West Virginia girl with their fingers, first in the back seat of a moving car after a mostly underage drinking party on Aug. 11, and then in the basement of a house.
“They treated her like a toy,” prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said.
Prosecutors argued that the victim was so intoxicated she couldn't consent to sex that night, while the defense contended the girl realized what she was doing and was known to lie.
The girl testified she could not recall what happened but woke up naked in a strange house after drinking at a party.
“It was really scary,” she said. “I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything.”
She said she believed she was assaulted when she later read text messages among friends and saw a photo of herself naked, along with a video that made fun of her and the alleged attack.
Three other boys, two of them on the football team, saw something happening that night and didn't try to stop it but instead recorded it with their cellphones. Granted immunity to testify, they confirmed the girl was assaulted and said she was so drunk she didn't seem to know what was happening.
Evidence at the trial also included sexually explicit text messages sent by numerous students after the party. Lawyers noted how texts have seemed to replace talking on the phone for young people. A computer forensic expert documented hundreds of thousands of texts found on 17 phones seized during the investigation.
In sentencing the boys, Lipps urged parents and others “to have discussions about how you talk to your friends, how you record things on the social media so prevalent today and how you conduct yourself when drinking is put upon you by your friends.”
After the arrests, the case was furiously debated on blogs and social media, with some people warning of conspiracies and conflicts of interest. On Sunday, Hemmeter, the prosecutor, criticized efforts by the hacker collective Anonymous to publicize the case, saying the attention had a chilling effect on those willing to testify.
After the verdict, the accuser's mother rebuked the boys for “lack of any moral code.”
“You were your own accuser, through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on,” she said. She added that the case “does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow and move on.”
Echoing that, the judge said that “as bad as things have been for all of the children involved in this case, they can all change their lives for the better.” (AP)