10:23 AM EST, January 8, 2013
The former legal guardians of a high school football star accused of raping a 16-year-old girl are coming to his defense.
Ma'lik Richmond and teammate Trent Mays have pleaded not guilty to raping the girl shown in a disturbing photo that has shocked the nation.
Now, Jennifer and Greg Agresta are speaking out. They were Richmond's legal guardians between the ages of eight and ten because they say he came from a broken home.
"I think everybody was surprised. It's out of character for Ma'lik, and I think everybody was just in shock," said Jennifer.
They showed photos of him during an appearance along with Richmond's attorney, Walter Madison on the Today show Tuesday.
Greg Agresta said, "We've Malik since he was eight. Even when he went back home with his mom and dad, he's always been a part of our family, always."
Richmond, a star wide receiver on the Steubenville, Ohio, Big Red football team is now living with the Agrestas under house arrest. His trial starts next month.
There was awkward silence when Matt Lauer asked them, "Do you think he was involved in this situation where this 16-year-old young lady was sexually assaulted?"
Madison then said, "You know Matt, that's a very difficult question for them. Under advice of council, I've shielded the family."
Meanwhile, the student shown laughing in the cellphone video about the alleged rape has voluntarily withdrawn from Ohio State University where he was a freshman.
But the university is coming under fire today for not outright expelling Michael Nodianos. One student wrote on the university's Facebook page, "These are the kind of people you allow to attend your university? Disgusting and the administration should be ashamed of themselves."
Also weighing in on the Steubenville case is actress Traci Lords, the former adult film star who appeared in the movie Crybaby in 1990.
Lords tells thedailybeast.com she was born and raised in Steubenville and the case "takes me right back there. It's not a fun thing to talk about."
She says she was raped in Steubenville by a 14-year-old boy when she was only ten years old and wrote a song about it. The lyrics are: "His hand over my mouth, that's why I'm not screaming."
Lords says this about the rape charges against the two high school football players: "We need to shine the brightest light on this. The daylight is really the best disinfectant."