Anonymous Vs. Steubenville

Online vigilante Deric Lostutter helped expose the cover-up in the Steubenville rape case. Now he's facing more jail time than the convicted rapists.

Anonymous' Deric Lostutter
Thomas Prior
November 27, 2013 3:25 PM ET

On November 25th, the most notorious rape case in recent memory took yet another shocking twist. In Steubenville, Ohio, where a 16-year-old girl was raped by two high school football players in August 2012, a grand jury indicted the city's School Superintendent, Michael McVey, on felony charges of tampering with evidence and obstructing justice. An elementary school principal and two coaches in the district were indicted as well, facing misdemeanor charges including failure to report child abuse and making false statements.

Shortly after the news hit that morning, Deric Lostutter, a skinny, scruffy 26-year-old programmer in Lexington, Kentucky, whipped out his cell phone and texted me a message. "We were called liars and more," he wrote, but "we were right about it." He had reason to feel vindicated. As one of the most notorious members of the hacker collective, Anonymous, Lostutter battled to bring justice to Steubenville, exposing secrets of a town that's still reeling from the fallout today. He just never expected that he'd get raided by the FBI, and face more prison time than the rapists in the end.

Anonymous is a purposefully chaotic and leaderless collective. Anyone can proclaim themselves a member or declare an "operation" against a target. But getting others to give a shit is another story. For every Anon who spawns a successful Op against The Church of Scientology or the New York Stock Exchange, countless others watch their YouTube manifestos disappear in a stream of grumpy cats.

This is what makes Lostutter stand out. Less than two months after creating his alter ego as KYAnonymous, he launched and organized two of group's most renowned and righteous operations yet: battling the Westboro Baptist Church and, most famously, the town of Steubenville, Ohio, after the high-profile rape of a teenage girl by players on the high school football team.

Seemingly overnight, Lostutter fueled a nobler strain of operations called Justice Ops. For a group often perceived as the Jackasses of the Internet, it was a radical rebranding. But Lostutter also became a target himself, attacked both by Anons, who dismissed him as a "fame fag," and the Steubenville elite who rejected him as a criminal punk. "We're a small city, we don't have any money," Steubenville police chief William McCafferty told me, "so if this KY messes up our computer system, that's something we have to pay for." As Steubenville and other fights heat up, Lostutter refuses to back down. "They're gonna have to lock me up if they think that I ain't gonna stand up for some people ever again," he says, "So, fuck that."

On a hot summer night at a strip mall bar called Woody's, Winchester's most famous outlaw introduces me to his Kentucky town's other claim to infamy: beer cheese, a gooey orange concoction which has its own festival every year on the ghostly main street. Behind him, a few burly southerners in unironic trucker hats play sandbag horseshoes, as a dirty-blonde woman in tight jeans blankly puffs a smoke.

When I ask Lostutter what he'd like to tell the people, like those in Steubenville, who slag off Anonymous as cyberterrorists, he nods to the scene here. "I'd say, 'Come visit me in Kentucky. I'll show you the most American place you can ever be,'" he says, "You know, everybody's like, 'Are you anti-government?' I'm like, 'Fuck no. I'm anti-bullshit.'"

Growing up "poor and nerdy" in the small town of King, North Carolina, Lostutter was a bullied kid from a broken family, beaten at home and at school. To cope with the divorce of his mom and dad — a tower guard at the local prison, famous as a location for the Blues Brothers movie — he escaped into computers, teaching himself to code. Though he could build his own motherboard, he couldn't hack school, where, scrawny and shy, he became a frequent target.

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