Posted on | January 29, 2013 | 5 Comments
‘Occupy’ protesters in Steubenville, Ohio, earlier this month.
“What is Anonymous trying to accomplish by its digital vigilante act in Steubenville? Who is lurking behind those Guy Fawkes masks and sockpuppet accounts, and what are their real motives? What are we to make of ‘Occupy Steubenville’ and their bizarre claims that the local sheriff is part of a conspiracy?”
— Robert Stacy McCain, “Anonymous and Steubenville: Online Lynch Mob Complicates Rape Case,” Jan. 13
A video that caused an Internet sensation will not be used as evidence in the trial of two 16-year-old Steubenville High School football players accused of sexually assaulting a girl last August.
At a preliminary hearing Friday in the Steubenville case, state prosecutors described the video of Michael Nodianos as “inadmissible and irrelevant” to their case, Lee Stranahan reports.
The video shows Nodianos, who graduated from Steubenville High in June, making crude jokes about the drunken condition of a 16-year-old West Virginia girl who has accused Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond of sexually assaulting her during a night of alc0hol-fueled partying.
Nodianos, who had been on academic scholarship as freshman at Ohio State University, dropped out of the university earlier this month after he became a target of threats and harassment. Some bloggers and media accounts had erroneously described the so-called “Steubenville Rape Video” as a confession. In fact, Nodianos was neither a participant in nor a witness to the alleged sexual assault. The video was reportedly recorded in the early morning hours of Aug. 12, after the alleged assault had occurred at another location.
Mays and Richmond are scheduled for trial next month, although Judge Thomas Lipps did not rule at Friday’s hearing on whether the trial would be delayed or moved from Steubenville.
The Nodianos video was originally recorded and posted to YouTube by Steubenville student Evan Westlake and then removed from the site in response to complaints. When the video was reposted to YouTube in January by KnightSec, a cell of the online hacker group Anonymous, it provoked extensive media coverage of the Steubenville case, which gained widespread attention in December after the New York Times published a long article about it. A number of bloggers have portrayed the case as a “cover-up,” alleging that police and school officials were protecting the football program at Steubenville High. Those sensational charges helped inspired protests in Steubenville by the “Occupy” movement, as well as threats against Nodianos and others whom Anonymous accused of being part of the “Steubenville Rape Crew.”
An anonymous blog makes sweeping, unsubstantiated accusations against many Steubenville residents and students, targeting everyone from the prosecutor to the sheriff to the head football coach. The blog describes Steubenville as a “town rife with corruption, cronyism, illegal gambling and fixated upon their star high school football team.”
[Ohio Attorney General Mike] DeWine disputes the notion that team members are being protected because of their status as football players. “We have an outside judge, outside prosecutors, outside investigation,” DeWine said. “There’s no coverup here. There are so many rumors going around Steubenville that I know are simply not true, but we can’t comment on every rumor. We need to present the case in court.”
Steubenville residents, spooked by threats to their schools and their children, have started to speak out at rallies, dubbed “Stand up for Steubenville Youth.” Steubenville officials launched a website and have been trying to combat rumors they say are sullying the image of their town. They have also offered counseling to kids upset by the negative attention. . . .
Sasha Brown-Worsham of the cafemom.com blog says Steubenville is the “most hated town in America” because of attention from online media and hackers.
Lee Stranahan’s reporting on the case showed that much of the online lynch-mob fury against Steubenville was led by fugitive hacker Christopher Doyon (“Commander X”) and convicted drug trafficker Frankie Francis (“Occupy Steubenville”). While sensationalized accounts of the Steubenville case led to claims of a “cover-up” and denunciations of the town as symbolic of a “rape culture,” Stranahan says the controvery has obscured the real lesson of the story:
There is a serious, nationwide problem involving teenage drinking and hook up culture. . . .
There’s been a cultural shift and it’s impacting teenagers today. The mainstreaming of stripper/sex tape/porn star culture seems to have finally pushed activities that were previously not discussed or considered for consenting adults only into the lives of America’s children. MTV shows like Jersey Shore and Buckwild glamorize constant parties with red solo cups, hooking up and fighting. Now add in social media and the constant presence of smart phones with cameras, and you have an incendiary mix.
In an e-mail thanking him for his coverage of the case, one Steubenville resident wrote to Stranahan: “There have been so many rumors and lies circulating about this case and the masked group was never needed here; they have only proven to show hate and chaos to our community.
- Jan. 16: Slow-Mo Walkback Beginning? Sheepish Silence From Anti-Steubenville Media
- Jan. 15: Steubenville ‘Rape Crew’? Non-Facts Smear the Innocent in an Ohio Town
- Jan. 14: Lynching Big Red: National Media’s Journalistic Crime Against Steubenville
- Jan. 13: ‘Anonymous’ and Steubenville: Online Lynch Mob Complicates Rape Case