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Steubenville ‘Rape Crew’? Non-Facts Smear the Innocent in an Ohio Town

Posted on | January 15, 2013 | 93 Comments

Michael Nodianos in the now-infamous Aug. 12 video

“Michael didn’t know the Jane Doe in this case. . . . He left the party around midnight on Saturday, went to McDonald’s and then to a friend’s house. She was leaving just a few moments after he arrived at the second house. He saw her leave with two guys. . . . There were three witnesses to the alleged rape at a third house and two of them came back to the house where Michael made the 12-minute video at around 2 a.m. or 2:30 a.m. People at the other house came back and talked about what happened. The kid shooting the video of Michael was not a witness to the alleged rape. The video was made at a friend’s house and not at the house where the alleged incident occurred.”
Dennis McNamara, attorney for Michael Nodianos

“An Ohio State University freshman shown in a video joking about a teenage girl allegedly raped by two high school football players will not be returning to school for the spring semester, his attorney says. . . .
“[S]omeone has hacked into his client’s email and social media accounts and the email accounts of his family members. . . .
“McNamara said people [had] attempted to find Nodianos’ class schedule and even came to his dormitory looking for him.”

CBS News

How did a sexual assault case involving three 16-year-olds — a girl and her two accused attackers — turn into a digital lynch-mob that has forced Michael Nodianos to drop out of college and defamed the entire town of Steubenville, Ohio? Lee Stranahan has been examining those questions, and a disturbing “story behind the story” is now beginning to emerge, which the national media seem reluctant to address.

Stranahan’s item headlined “Steubenville Rape Case: Everything You Know Is Wrong” identifies misinformation that has circulated about the case, including the unsubstantiated claim that there is (or was) a cover-up which bloggers and Anonymous hackers exposed.

Let’s start with the notorious 12-minute video in which Nodianos, an academic scholarship student who graduated from Steubenville in June, jokes about the alleged victim in the case. As Stranahan has pointed out (“Steubenville Probable Cause Transcript: The Infamous Video“) this video has been both the subject and source of much mythology about the case. Some believe that the video was recorded at the scene of the alleged rape, that Nodianos was a witness to (or participant in) the alleged rape and that nobody knew about the video until it was posted online by Anonymous — all of which is wrong, wrong, wrong:

  • The video was recorded in the basement of a home where, as Nadianos’s attorney explained, the girl had left about two hours before the video was recorded.
  • The alleged sexual assault(s) occurred in a car en route to another party, and also at that party at another home.
  • Detectives were aware of the video, as court transcripts make clear, by Aug. 14 or 15 — just two or three days after the alleged attack.

Keep in mind Stranahan’s caveat about his reporting: “This is not defending the suspects or attacking the accuser.

Why did Nodianos become such an object of hate? Well, he made cruel jokes on the video about how drunk the girl was. He had seen her briefly — before she left for the third party she attended that night — in a state of extreme intoxication. The New York Times, Dec. 17:

At the parties, the girl had so much to drink that she was unable to recall much from that night, and nothing past midnight, the police said. The girl began drinking early on, according to an account that the police pieced together from witnesses, including two of the three Steubenville High athletes who testified in court in October. By 10 or 10:30 that night, it was clear that the dark-haired teenager was drunk because she was stumbling and slurring her words, witnesses testified.
Some people at the party taunted her, chanted and cheered as a Steubenville High baseball player dared bystanders to urinate on her, one witness testified.
About two hours later, the girl left the party with several Big Red football players, including Mays and Richmond, witnesses said. They stayed only briefly at a second party before leaving for their third party of the night. Two witnesses testified that the girl needed help walking. One testified that she was carried out of the house by Mays and Richmond while she was “sleeping.”

Nodianos joked that the girl was so drunk she was “dead” and, at one point in the video, suggests that anyone who had sex with the girl in that condition was guilty of “necrophilia.” But it must be emphasized that Nodianos was neither a participant in nor a witness to the alleged assault. As cruel and tasteless as his jokes were, he was not guilty of a crime, nor did he have any first-hand knowledge of a crime.

What has happened in the past three weeks — since Anonymous “released what its members called a ‘partial dox,’” as Michelle Dean of the New Yorker reported — is that a witch-hunt mentality of collective guilt has developed around the case. Alexander Abad-Santos of the Atlantic:

The hackers . . . seem to believe that there are more people involved, that there are more victims, that the accused are getting special treatment because they are football players, and that there’s a bigger group of boys involved, which Anonymous has dubbed the “Rape Crew.”

These unsubstantiated claims about a “Rape Crew,” which allegedly involves many more people than the two Steubenville High School students who will face trial next month, are wildly irresponsible. As the Steubenville police chief told the New York Times in December:

“Everybody on those Web sites kept saying stuff that wasn’t true and saying, ‘Why wasn’t this person arrested? Why aren’t the police doing anything about it?’ ” he said. “Everybody wanted to incriminate more of the football players . . .”

John Ziegler appeared Monday on CNN Headline News and said:

“All of this information on social media that has come from this Anonymous Internet hacking group has been bogus, fraudulent, slanderous, libelous. They have committed at least nine felonies, according to one Ohio prosecutor. . . . They are frauds. Almost everything they have said has been false. They have ginned up an enormous amount of false media coverage and a false narrative has been created to destroy a town and there are many innocent victims here.”

Lee Stranahan continues reporting on the story:

It seems that we may be witnessing a typical case of media malpractice, in which a crew of irresponsible bloggers and “hacktivists” are ginning up false accusations without regard for truth, and without concern for the harm done to innocent citizens of Steubenville.

UPDATE: Lee Stranahan has posted excerpts of the testimony at the October hearing, to clarify when, where and by whom the girl was allegedly assaulted. Claims that the victim was “dragged [by the suspects] to three separate parties during the course of the night as their personal rape toy” (The Nation) or “gang raped and dragged from party to party” (Salon) are simply not substantiated by the testimony.

No one “dragged” her to the first party (she attended with girlfriends). She was not “dragged” from that party (she voluntarily left with Trent Mays and others), and there wasn’t really much of a “party” at the second home they visited, where they stayed only about 20 minutes, most of which time the girl was vomiting. The teenagers were asked to leave that home and the girl had to be carried out because she was passed out. According to testimony, it was only then — en route to the third party of the night, and at that party — that the girl was allegedly assaulted. And witnesses said the “gang rape” involved only the two 16-year-old boys who have been charged in the case.

There is a vast difference between (a) the specific crimes alleged in the testimony, and (b) the misleading impression created by certain media reports that the girl was the victim of repeated gang rapes.



93 Responses to “Steubenville ‘Rape Crew’? Non-Facts Smear the Innocent in an Ohio Town”

  1. Theresam
    January 16th, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

    Explain that to the women in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, etc

  2. CPAguy
    January 16th, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

    OSU has rules against foul language and drunken chit chat?

    Do they arrest everybody after the football games?

  3. Rob W
    January 16th, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

    Anyone who takes a picture of an underage child in an unclothed/sexual situation is the producer of child porn. Also, “Nodi” seems to be in possesion of what appears to be a scoped centerfire rifle during his drunken rant. During that rant, he makes fun of one of the other kids who goes to check on the girl, leading me to believe his attorney is “strecthing” the truth (if you can believe an attorney would do that) when he relates the “facts” as told to him by his client.

  4. Rob W
    January 16th, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

    The republicans seem to be the ones confused about what “legitimate” rape consists of (Mourdock, Akin ring any bells?). Put the bottle down Mr. Crawford.

  5. Rob W
    January 16th, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

    Making images of underage children in sexual situations is considered manufacture of child porn in any other city in the nation, no matter how old the cameraman is.

  6. Rob W
    January 16th, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

    His name and story will live a looong time on the internet…

  7. K-Bob
    January 16th, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

    You don’t “self defense” without violence.

    Not even when you’re a black belt in aikido.

  8. Battle Royal! « The Big Bombshell
    January 16th, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    […] Non Facts About Rape Case […]

  9. SDN
    January 16th, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

    Have you ever heard the phrase “dead drunk”?

  10. cassandra
    January 16th, 2013 @ 10:01 pm

    The person who wrote this article is seriously insensitive. It seems as though he didn’t even watch Nodianos’ video. He was not merely making fun of how unconscious she was. He at one point says she was “so raped.” That’s outrageous, and I don’t care whether he was involved or not. He is disgusting. And I’m sure there have been false statements circulating on the web. Needless to say, people should be more careful where they get their sources. But as far as Anonymous goes, as reckless as they are, they have done nothing but try to help this girl. By releasing the video, they have shown America the primitive attitudes of men these days. And as far as facts go, how do you know no one dragged her? How do you know she left voluntarily? There’s a confirmed picture going around, and it doesn’t exactly look like the girl is being cradled. Let the public be outraged. That is the only way that incidents like this will stop happening.

  11. cassandra
    January 16th, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

    Do you always make rape jokes during your drunken chit chat? CPAguy you are disgusting.

  12. cassandra
    January 16th, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

    He refers to the girl as “so raped”… he literally says “there is a picture of her with a wang in the butthole, usually there is a response to that” … did you even watch this video?

  13. CPAguy
    January 16th, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

    Jokes are jokes. Just because some are in poor taste, doesn’t mean that one should be arrested for them.

  14. Reglate
    January 16th, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

    Rob W, At what timestamp in the video did one of the kid goes off to check the girl?

  15. sarah
    January 17th, 2013 @ 12:23 am

    So three exceptions that We can think of off hand. People still don’t rape in self defense.

  16. K-Bob
    January 17th, 2013 @ 12:34 am

    You having fun with that? Strange concept to bring into the discussion.

  17. li'l el
    January 17th, 2013 @ 1:17 am

    yes, well put

    btw: is there really such a being as a “rapist sympathizer”?

  18. MillRun
    January 17th, 2013 @ 1:27 am

    anyone who defends anyone who was anywhere near that football program is disgusting. including ziegler, if that’s the guy who sleeps with the pervo joepa blowup doll.

  19. Becca Lower
    January 17th, 2013 @ 2:33 am

    If you knew “the person who wrote this article” like many of his readers do, then you wouldn’t make such an accusation. But what disturbs me most about your comment is the very end: your words reveal that you really don’t care about the truth, but what effect you think the story will have on a wider scale. The ends justify the means, even if that involves lives and livelihoods being destroyed, is that right?

  20. sarah
    January 17th, 2013 @ 8:17 am

    I didn’t. You brought up self defense.

  21. sarah
    January 17th, 2013 @ 8:22 am

    Most Colleges have rule as to how you are supposed to behave, an ethical code. You represent them so they require you to act a certain way. He was underage and drunk talking about a crime that he did not report.

  22. sarah
    January 17th, 2013 @ 8:23 am

    I figured she wasn’t really dead but those where his words, not mine.

  23. Bob Belvedere
    January 17th, 2013 @ 9:26 am

    Thank you, Mare. I try, but sometimes it’s hard not let my ‘inner fresh’ come out.

  24. Bob Belvedere
    January 17th, 2013 @ 9:26 am

    Hear, hear!

  25. Dr Phil Discusses Steubenville Rape Case With Alexandria Goddard
    January 17th, 2013 @ 9:31 am

    […] victim and those claiming that “boys will be boys” and that the facts leaked about the Steubenville case are all wrong. I’m always going to be the person who tends to side with a rape victim, even without knowing […]

  26. Sheri Jewell
    January 17th, 2013 @ 11:37 am

    While this young man may not be guilty of a crime, as per described by our legal system, he is most certainly guilty of displaying a complete lack of human empathy, guilt, compassion or a conscious. That is far more deplorable than the infraction of any man-made law.

  27. Guest
    January 17th, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

    Absolutely this kid deserves to be ostracized. Does he deserve to be punished by the law? Prevented from graduating? Lynched? No, no, and no–because, as you point out, he didn’t commit a crime.

    But Nodianos, by his own hand, represents something very, very wrong in this culture, which is an increasingly hostile and callous attitude to violence against women. And we have every right to take umbrage and socially condemn someone like him in the same way that most people would shun Holocaust deniers. Nodianos is not an “innocent citizen” okay?

    You know who was? The ACTUAL VICTIM.

    Stop defending people who perpetuate rape culture.

  28. K.
    January 17th, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

    Describing the response to this kid’s comments as a “lynching” is ridiculous.

    You’re aware that a ‘lynch mob’ refers to the practice in American history of killing African Americans, yes? Well, I haven’t heard of this kid being killed. And you’re aware that most lynch victims were motivated by racism, yes? Well, this kid is not being targeted by some widespread prejudice; he’s being targeted because of things that came out of his own mouth. And you’re right that he didn’t do anything illegal, but he hasn’t suffered any criminal punishment either. So far he hasn’t suffered anything he doesn’t deserve, which is widespread verbal public condemnation. And last I checked, getting lambasted by the media because you’ve made comments that are disturbing, violent, immoral, and abusive and on the wrong side of basic human decency is NOT the same as actually getting killed by a racist mob simply because you are black.

    Using inflammatory language to suggest that this kid deserves sympathy is a tired and repugnant strategy. And frankly, if a video like this came out and we DIDN’T condemn it, then that would indicate serious problems about our society.

    …Which says something about you, oh voice of the ‘repressed.’

  29. Heather Kane
    January 17th, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

    No, not just Nodainos video, but the overwhelming evidence that there was more to what happened then what the witnesses say. TSo it’s ok to just take witness testimony at face value from a bunch of corrupt people trying to stay out of trouble? Where is the justice in that?

  30. sarah
    January 17th, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

    I don’t want to ‘lynch’ anyone. Making someone stand trial is not lynching. Calm down.

  31. K-Bob
    January 18th, 2013 @ 3:49 am

    Which has nothing to do with anything written by pretty much anyone, ever.

  32. sarah
    January 18th, 2013 @ 6:28 am

    “I see you’ve taken self defense off the table.

    Why do you hate women?”

    I said you don’t hurt people you like but I forgot to mention hurting someone in self defense. Even so, that doesn’t apply to rape because you don’t rape in self defense.

  33. CPAguy
    January 18th, 2013 @ 9:47 am

    Yeah….they don’t kick you out of school for that.

  34. sarah
    January 18th, 2013 @ 10:47 am

    Apparently not but according to this they do :

  35. K-Bob
    January 18th, 2013 @ 12:18 pm

    You are lost in the ether on this one. You declared all violence is hate. That clearly removes self defense from your list of acceptable, non-hate.

    I wrote that you don’t self-defend without violence, even if you have a black-belt in aikido.

    Where you got this bizarre “rape in self-defense” concept is from someplace in the twilight zone. It has less than nothing to do with anything I wrote.

  36. Jay
    January 18th, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

    Why are you defending someone who is promoting rape for over 12 minutes on video?

  37. Bob Clawford
    January 18th, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

    Ignore Rob – he has much time trolling here

  38. sarah
    January 18th, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

    I didn’t say all violence is hate, I said most violence is hate and listed two examples. Then you said that self defense is violence and it doesn’t involve hate, which I agree with but didn’t mention. I said that self defense doesn’t count in cases of rape because nobody rapes anyone in self I don’t understand why you brought it up.

    My goal wasn’t to list every case of violence that doesn’t involve hate, but just a few.

  39. K-Bob
    January 19th, 2013 @ 9:13 am

    Look, you’re just going round and round here. Leave me out of it.

  40. sarah
    January 19th, 2013 @ 11:20 am

    You’re right, there’s no use in me repeating myself if you don’t get it. It’s all up there if you wish to understand.

  41. K-Bob
    January 19th, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

    Yes, but you apparently missed it.

  42. justjoy
    January 22nd, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

    every person on earth hates rapists rape enablers and the scum who defend them, the only thing i can say to the “humans” who are this inhumane is if youre lucky enough to have children may you all have only daughters.

  43. justjoy
    January 22nd, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

    lets use all the videos text messages the rape kit the confirmed sightings of her at peoples houses the urine on her clothing ect… when our world has sunk to “rape crew” standards im glad Anonymous is around its the closest thing we will ever get to Batman and lord knows we need a super hero now. after all if the courts can say RAPE is a occupational hazzard of being in the millitary maybe public schools will be next.