Cops go online to lay out facts in high school athlete rape case after hacker protests
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Authorities investigating rape accusations against two high school football players in eastern Ohio launched a website Saturday intended to sort fact from fiction after hacker activists spurred interest in the case.
The site, sponsored by Steubenville city and police officials, has the appearance of a legal briefing, with black type on a white background, providing an intentional departure from escalating emotions over the case and how it's been handled.
"This site is not designed to be a forum for how the Juvenile Court ought to rule in this matter," the site declares.
Two 16-year-old boys are set for trial Feb. 13 in juvenile court in Steubenville on charges that they raped a 16-year-old girl in August. Their attorneys have denied the charges in court.
The website provides a timeline of the case, summaries of Ohio laws that affect sex charges, online posts and reaction to them, facts about the local police force and a pledge of transparency.
Public interest in the case increased this week with circulation online of an unverified video, more than 12 minutes long, that purportedly shows another young man joking about the accuser. The video apparently was released by hackers who allege more people were involved and should be held accountable.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has called the posting "despicable" but said it didn't constitute new evidence for local investigators, who were aware of it before the posting.
As investigation continues, it has spurred heated commentary online. Some support the defendants and question the character of the teenage girl, while others allege a cover-up or contend more people should be charged.
The latter group includes hacker-activists associating under the Anonymous and KnightSec labels who point to comments they say were posted around the time of the alleged attack on social media by people who are not charged.
A second peaceful protest in as many weeks was planned for noon Saturday at the local courthouse.