No tips offered by anonymous sources helped convict Trent Mays or Ma’lik Richmond, two Steubenville, Ohio teenagers found delinquent in the August 2012 rape of a 16-year-old, Jane Doe. That is according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office in a phone interview Thursday morning.
“All items presented at the time (of the original investigation) by ‘Anonymous’ were previously known to law enforcement,” said Dan Tierney, spokesperson for the Attorney General.
By “Anonymous,” Tierney is referring to the vigilante hacktivist group who hacked into school computers and, in collaboration with Local Leaks, a tip-gathering website for anonymous informants, gathered over 1,000 tips about the incident. Tips included tweets, videos, and accusations of local conspiracies between law enforcement, school officials, and community leaders. Investigative blogger, Alexandria Goddard, and “Anonymous” created national awareness by publishing evidence that witnesses and partakers of the evening had posted to social media sites, many of which have been subsequently deleted.
Many in the Steubenville community viewed the social media attention as a witch hunt. Goddard was slapped with a defamation suit which was later dropped. The community splintered. While the investigation continued, voices picked teams, either blaming the victim, blaming social media for using the case to promote its anti-rape political agenda while disregarding the victim’s privacy, or lionizing the social media attention and it role in bringing perceived justice.
“If you could charge people for not being decent human beings, a lot of people could have been charged that night,” said William McCafferty, Steuvenville Police Chief. McCafferty voiced frustration over being accused of not aggressively investigating participants and some adults who, tweets captured by Goddard suggest, may have been aware of that night’s events. Repeated calls from law enforcement for information resulted in only one person coming forward voluntarily.
“This is a good community, with good people…I know that it desperately needs to be able to put this matter behind it and begin to move forward,” wrote DeWine in a statement on his website the day after Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were convicted of rape. To be able to move forward though, DeWine noted, “…this community needs assurance that no stone has been left unturned in our search for the truth.”
To ensure the turning of those stones, the Attorney General announced on March 18 the formation of a grand jury that would fully investigate allegations of further wrong-doing.
“What happened here is shocking, and it is appalling,” wrote DeWine. “But what’s even more shocking and appalling is that crimes of sexual assault are occurring every Friday night and every Saturday night in big and small communities all across this country. And there comes a point, where we must say, “Enough! This has to stop!”
Because “the investigation is ongoing,” Tierney was unable to comment on whether any of the anonymous tips provided by Local Leaks were being processed for the grand jury, nor how they would be vetted if they were being processed. A direct call to the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s “Crimes Against Children” division led back to the spokesperson.
The 14 member grand jury “was seated but didn’t begin work” on April 15. It reconvened on April 30 and worked for three days and then “continued” for what were supposed to be three weeks. But three weeks passed and no grand jury had reconvened. Nor had it on June 17, the date of its reschedule.
“We don’t have a definite date for when the grand jury will reconvene,” reported Tierney on June 20.
As It Stands:
DeWhine is addressing sexual assault from a state-wide platform.
Attorney General DeWine will speak about a new program to help sexual assault victims in Ohio at 10 a.m. Live steam: http://t.co/2umOmtBE4c
— Ohio AG Mike DeWine (@OhioAG) March 20, 2013
Deric Lostutter, the man who self-identified as “KYAnonymous,” the leader of #OpRollRedRoll, “Anonymous’s” presence in Steubenville, is currently facing jail time for computer crimes. He could get 15-25 years. The rapists got one and two.
Reno Saccoccia, the coach who was allegedly aware of the events of that night, had his contract renewed by the school district for two more years.
The website Local Leaks has been suspended for violation of Terms of Service.