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Judge removes ex-Steubenville athlete convicted of rape from sex offender list

In this Sept. 14, 2017, file photo, Ma'lik Richmond, center, of Steubenville, Ohio, and his attorney Susan Stone, left, walk out of U.S. District Court in Youngstown, Ohio.

AP Photo/Dake Kang, File

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A judge on Friday ordered that an ex-Ohio high school football player convicted of rape be removed from the state's sex offender registry for juveniles. The ruling by Judge Thomas Lipps came in the case of Ma'Lik Richmond, a former Steubenville High School football player who in 2013 was convicted of raping a 16-year-old West Virginia girl at a party that followed a football scrimmage the previous year.

Richmond served a one-year sentence and later rejoined the Steubenville football team. Now 21, he plays for Youngstown State University.

After his conviction, Richmond was ordered to register his address every six months for the next 20 years. In 2014, Lipps agreed to reclassify him so that he had to register only once a year for the next decade. Ohio law allows juveniles to request removal altogether.

A second juvenile convicted in the crime served a two-year sentence. His attorneys plan a similar request in the future.

A message was left with Richmond's attorney seeking comment. In a November filing, state public defender Brooke Burns argued that Richmond had served his punishment, completed all sex offender programming, and is now a successful college student. He has a strong family support system and is hard-working and remorseful, the filing said.

Richmond's "court history demonstrates his rehabilitation and commitment to leading an offense-free future," Burns said on Nov. 9.

Lipps said Richmond did everything required of him, including registering with the sheriff's office.

"He has demonstrated that he can live amongst society and no longer needs the supervision and restrictions necessary for Juvenile Sex Offender Registrants," Lipps said.

The state wanted Richmond left on the registry, saying he tried to minimize his involvement in the crime. Dan Tierney, spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, declined comment Friday.

The 2012 case drew international attention because of the role of social media played in publicizing the assault. There also were initial allegations of a cover-up by local authorities and frustration that more football players weren't charged, including some who witnessed the assaults.

Richmond was released from prison in January 2014 and attended colleges in West Virginia and Pennsylvania before transferring to Youngstown State in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore.

Last year, Youngstown State sidelined Richmond after receiving backlash about having him on the team. After Richmond sued, a settlement with the university allowed him to stay on the active roster.

As that controversy played out, Richmond's father, Nathaniel Richmond, was killed in August 2017 in an unrelated confrontation when he shot a judge in a courthouse parking lot and a probation officer returned fire. The judge had been overseeing a wrongful death lawsuit the father filed against a housing authority.