Note: See many updates from this past weekend here.
I first covered this highly disturbing story after The New York Times ran a major story last month on the cover-up and controversy in Steubenville, Ohio, involving vicious sexual assaults on a teen girl last August—the silencing at least partly due to the fact that some of the alleged perpetrators are high school football players in a football-mad town.
And this is a town, not far from Pittsburgh, that I have visited dozens of times—and driven right past the “Big Red” stadium. My wife’s family’s home is just a few miles west. Long ago I devoted a chapter in one of my books to a sheriff just across the river in Weirton, West Virginia, who risked his life to probe entrenched local corruption and gambling interests.
The shocking Times story, titled “Rape Case Unfolds Online and Divides Steubenville,” even included a passage revealing that one of the two reporters for the paper had been verbally threatened with harm by the high school football coach, a central figure in the drama. I was surprised the Times did not make more of that subsequently.
Perhaps that’s because the story quickly was forgotten (by most) in the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But this week it has resurfaced and drawn much more national attention, from sports blogs to The Atlantic.
After the Times story broke, it was reported that some “Anonymous”-connected activists had promised they would hack sites connected to the case—prosecutors’ files, e-mails of those alleged to have taken part in the sexual assualt or the cover-up, websites run by football boosters. This week some of their findings surfaced, proving they had indeed tapped into buried or missing evidence, including photos (see above) and deleted tweets and videos. Just this morning they sketched out the chain of events on the night of the alleged rapes.
This remains an active case. Only two young men have been charged so far and are awaiting trial next month—in juvenile court before a judge, not a jury. But anger has been directed at the fact that no one else has been charged in either the incident or the coverup. The alleged assaults on the girl, who had passed out, took place at several parties and were witnessed by dozens who did not intervene but mainly took photos or videos—which they later deleted. The Anonymous folks recovered some of them but prosecutors have claimed little success in that.