Shocking video evidence of rape admissions and allegations of a massive cover up enterprise by influential parents in Steubenville, Ohio are shooting up the major media beanstalk at present.
Video files reportedly obtained by vigilante hacker(s) KnightSec were provided to the LocalLeaks blog who immediately set up an investigative reporting operation seeking to help additional victims feel secure in coming forward. They went live with the story here on Jan. 1.
Warning, some of the video admissions might be hard to stomach for the sensitive.
The report includes fantastic accounts of an array of related crimes, seemingly based on hearsay accounts from students at Big Red High School. These include date rape drug procurement, local bookmaking, drug and protection rings and possible witness intimidation.
But you can actually hear first hand confirmations of knowledge of rape, on tape, made by alleged participants that have still not been charged.
The digital footprints left by the 'Rape Crew' seem almost Darwinian in their stupidity, but only two of their number were charged, incredulously as juveniles. Why?
The blog's authors say the same arresting authorities allegedly oversee local gambling operations, and had announced this particular leaked confession video was "inadvertently deleted". If true, that represents serious suspicion of evidence tampering. State officials say the video provided nothing not already known.
The victim and her family were also advised not to pursue charges by a powerful county prosecuting attorney whose house was involved on the night in question, and whose son runs with the same posse, according to the post.
Some of the allegations made in the blog are so far-flung, it leads this writer to believe it might in part be a ploy to drum up media attention and public awareness (which clearly worked). The raised profile of the case led the Ohio Attorney General's office to appoint special prosecutors to preserve the fairness of the proceeding in the tight-knit community.
But there is a downside if the attention hurts the legal case against the accused rapists. At least one suspect is already claiming they can't get a fair trial now, with supporters saying the hackers are "terrorists".
A skilled defense team could be collecting hundreds of online threats made against the accused, such as "the rapists could be hanged
from the high school goal posts". The Facebook page for Ohio State University, the college of the central braggart in the video is alight with comments about the case, including choice bits like "i hope this town gets f**ing rioted/and or looted to bits tomorrow f** them".
At noon on Saturday, Jan. 5 the local ABC affiliate livestreamed
a demonstration at the Jefferson County Courthouse in support of the victim.
Sentiment is running high these days in support of victims' right as House GOP leadership just refused to allow
a vote on the reauthorization of the popular Violence Against Women Act after it sailed through the Senate.
A Common "Microcosm" of Larger Human Rights Issue
In India, the gang rape and death of a New Delhi woman has led to massive protests, arrests and a massive national conversation. The resultant media focus has spilled over into many other cases and jurisdictions.
The preponderance of marches and vigils has electrified activists, but what happens when a movement turns into a mob? In the New Delhi case, an abrupt backlash has led to calls for the death penalty and an attempted bombing close to an accused rapist's home, largely considered symbolic. [Update: one accused was found dead hanging in his jail cell].
Last March Morocco changed it's law
barring rapists from marrying their victims following mass protest and viral media reporting the suicide of an underage victim named Amina El-Filali.
Last week, we included year-end coverage of allegations made in 2012 against against the well-protected right wing videographer James O'Keefe by a young blogger who alleges she was drugged while drinking in his New Jersey barn.
Digital Divide Between Citizen Media and The Law
Concerning a high-profile figure like the "ACORN pimp", it seems strange that major media still hasn't seen fit to explore the evidence
and confessions of Nadia Naffe, who claims she helped O'Keefe wiretap a Member of Congress but was later victimized herself in O'Keefe's "barn plot". [Update: A Boston paper finally covered the story
The same ACORN-slaying "gonzo journalist", already on trial for invading others' privacy had his dirty secrets breeched
after he idiotically logged in on Ms. Naffe's device.
This led to online attacks against the victim which shot across the right wing blogosphere. Ms. Naffe fought back, perhaps emboldened by one female reporter previously harassed by O'Keefe who told her story in the media
. Naffe told her tale, potentially exposing new crimes and probation violations.
Though civil suits were filed, questions remain whether the GOP's vote-suppression hero received deferential treatment by law-enforcement. Multiple sitting Deputy District Attorneys in California are being sued after a private blog was used to post Naffe's personal data and professional case advice to try Naffe's attempted date rape claims online in the public eye.
Questions For Professional Media
In this, the gilded age of corporate media and blatant imbalance, the question of gender equality remains. Just this week, a record number of female US Senators and US Reps were seated, but is the media catching up with national and international sentiment in leveling the playing field?
: Forced to publicly respond, Steubenville town officials and police have posted a web page
seeking to separate fact from speculation, starting with jurisdictional and governance protocols. But they may have added further confusion regarding charging accomplices, witnesses or others who subsequently found out. From the page:
Nothing in Ohio's criminal statutes makes it a crime for someone to ridicule a rape victim on a video or otherwise say horrible things about another person. Further, nothing in the law allows someone who says repugnant things on Twitter, Facebook, or other Internet sites to be criminally charged for such statements.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine similarly told the ABC-TV
But if this sounds like it defies common sense, it may be because it is wrong. Since 1974, Ohio Law, Revised Code - 2921.22, states:
According to the report, the witness claimed he had never before see these photos, found on his phone by forensic examiners.
Transcripts also give insight as to why additional charges were not filed. Judge Thomas Lipps told witnesses it was "because we cannot find the photos you took" adding "[d]o you understand how lucky you are?"
The story gets convoluted as the local sheriff claims he turned the investigation over to state officials, but state officials at Ohio's BCI report said initially that they had been "requested to assist in the investigation into an alleged sexual assault which occurred over the course of August 11 and 12, 2012"
"...The BCI is gathering any and all relevant evidence. The Ohio Attorney General's Office cannot provide comment on whether specific items are being reviewed as part of the investigation.'