Originally filed with Mobile Broadcast News 3/22/2013
Amanda and I up meet up at 4 am, and head to court.. She doesn’t have press credentials, so she must be there early to stand and wait in line with the public. I have a court press pass, so I could go in anytime I want, but I preferred to stay in the van and wait with her until the doors open at 9 am.
Fred Abdalla Junior comes outside around 7 am in street clothes to inform me that he’ll let media in at 8 am, he politely talks to Amanda and the other member of the public waiting to get in and assures them that they will be able to observe the trial from the public side viewing rooms today. I pass the hour hanging out with Amanda, observing the news techs running around, as well as, the other journalists doing their morning live remotes from the courthouse.
Sherrif Abdalla comes out and hands me a swisher sweet while wishing me a good morning, and I step inside the courthouse when they open the doors an hour early for media. I chat with Dave Sommers, a Zainesville Ohio tv reporter about how he didn’t know anything about this case until his station sent him to Steubenville. We exchange email addresses and I promise to send him the probable cause transcript from October, as well as link him to all of my written, video and radio pieces on the subject so he could further educate himself on the case. Ten other journalists are huddled in the corner as we wait for the okay to head back upstairs to our overcrowded media room. The heat has been broken in the room for 2 days now, and it has been blasting at full power making things miserable. I chat with local Pittsburgh TV reporters on the case and “how they see me everywhere.” “Yeah, I’ve come along way from covering Occupy Pittsburgh.” I reply as i crack open the first mountain dew for the day.
We’re led to the media room by Ohio BCI agents after signing in, and we ignore yesterdays assigned seating, and sit next to the reporters who we had fun with yesterday. I stay in the back because if i feel the need to sleep I can at least lean against the wall. (words of advice from Dave Sommers) Court was supposed to begin at 10, but we start late as usual.
The prosecution calls 2 phone company representatives to testify as to the legitimacy of the phone records subpoenaed in the case. We break for lunch, and since I have no internet signal on site to work, Anonymous hooks me up on my own live stream channel on a feed for outside the trial, but a place where I can come give live updates on what is going on inside the trial. We come back from lunch only for another 1 hour delay in the court start. In the media room we become restless and start placing bets on when we will actually resume the trial. I use the time to catch a nap. When Judge Lipps takes the bench, he informs the court that a juvenile case such as this should only last 3 days, but due to the number of witnesses both sides decide to call, we will no longer be taking dinner breaks (a collective groan was heard through out out the media room) and that tonight we will go until 8 or 9 pm, tomorrow start early and go until 11 pm each night if need be, the trial must be wrapped by Sunday. Any breaks will only be 5 or ten minutes. We hear testimony from 2 Steubenville officers who were in charge of retrieving 17 cell phones from teens who were at the parties, and the audio in our room is hard to hear due to technical difficulties. We ask Fred Abdalla Junior if during a break they can put a second microphone on the stand, and he suggests we turn off the fan the courts provided us with due to the heat being broke and on full blast. “What a dick!” many of us exclaim as he leaves the room.
During the next break, technicians add a second microphone to the stand, and we are back in business. We missed testimony from a Steubenville PD dispatcher, but this witness was only on for less that 3 minutes, so we all agree that testimony must not have been important. The TV reporters begin lamenting that they have nothing for their reports at 4, 5 and 6. Nothing juicy to produce segments for their spots. And then, they begin reading over 3,000 text messages between the boys. I could almost hear the MSM tv folks say “Thank God for this!” in their heads. I furiously begin writing down everything said as best I can, Hoping Amanda is taking good notes for what I miss. After about 13 pages, I get up to go do a live update. “Where ya going man? you’re gonna miss the good stuff.” Dave says to me. “I gotta do a live update, I’ll be right back.” I say as I boogie towards the door. I’m see Anonymous near the exit to the street level parking lot by the Channel 4 news van, and I do a live stream update on the text messages I have transcribed so far. I quickly head back to the media room for more text messages. The Ohio BCI forensics specialist has been on the stand for 2 hours now, and we were told to expect her to be testifying until 5 or 6 PM. The defense really isn’t grilling the witnesses, and I am unimpressed with their tactics.
We wrap for the day after testimony from a BCI agent who recovered DNA evidence from the Cole Home where the rape took place. Amanda and I head outside, and we go to meet @anonymousphere, the MC of all the rallies at an undisclosed location. We relax decompress and enjoy conversation with Sphere. I allow Amanda to interview Sphere as part of her learning experience, and then her and I leave to go write up our story. I’ve done one other big trial before, and Amanda is new at this so I decide to hang back a little bit. We work until 3:30 Am. I write up my take on the day. I keep it short, simple and to the point, as my readers enjoy, and am done with my part of the collaboration within 25 minutes. Amanda is a talented writer and takes a couple hours to write her piece, and then meld my work into hers for one article. We decide to alternate posting the content on each other’s Mobile Broadcast News page , then I sleep for an hour or so, and we’re on to day 3.