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Anonymous Vs. Steubenville

Page 3 of 5

The week before, he had read a New York Times story about the rape of a 16-year-old girl and its alleged cover-up in this small town. "The more I found out, the more angry I got," he recalls, "what really got me heated is her friends and everybody else's friends stood around and watched this shit happen, and nobody did a fucking thing." After fuming about the case on Twitter earlier that week, he was contacted by a woman who not only shared his outrage, but thought that KY, given his success against Moore and Westboro, could help the cause.

Michelle McKee, a sexual abuse survivor and activist, along with her friend, Alexandria Goddard, a crime blogger who'd grown up in the town, had been trying in vain to stir up media attention about Steubenville. Goddard, however, who blogged online under the name Prinnie, had been hit with a defamation lawsuit by the family of Cody Saltsman, one of the high school footballers involved in posting a photo of the victim from the night of the incident on Twitter. McKee passed along incriminating tweets and photos they'd been getting from Steubenville. "Thanks," KY replied, "we'll take it from here.'"

For Lostutter, Steubenville had echoes of Westboro, Moore, and his own mother's domestic abuse. Just as he fought back against bullies in high school, he now wanted to use his newfound powers of Anonymous to strike back on behalf of the rape victim, known simply as Jane Doe. Calling his operation Op RollRedRoll, after the football team's slogan, he christened his Anonymous troops as KnightSec, as in White Knight, and cued up his webcam.

When posting an Op video, one risks a certain embarrassment — namely that no one will give a shit or take it seriously. But, like a deft poker player, Lostutter amped up his manifesto with a bluff. He claimed that Anonymous had already doxed "everyone involved" with the cover-up and crime — parents, teachers, and kids — and were going to release their private information online "unless all accused parties come forward by New Years Day and issue a public apology to the girl and her family." Though he knew Anonymous could deliver if need be, this wasn't his hope. "Our goal wasn't to hack," he tells me, "Our goal was to get the attention of higher authorities to get involved in Steubenville." So he posted the manifesto on YouTube, and went to sleep.

The next morning he woke up to a tweet from an Anon, who told KY she'd seen him on TV on Fox News while she was running on a treadmill at the gym. Lostutter quickly fired up his laptop, and saw something surprising: the Steubenville booster club website, RollRedRoll.com, had been hacked, and now his Op RollRedRoll video was the front page. "I thought it was fucking awesome," he says.

 

Noah McHugh, a hacker from Virginia Beach who tweeted under the name @JustBatCat, took responsibility for compromising the site, which was just a simple matter of guessing the password — the name of the football team — in, he later said, "about 15 minutes." McHugh worked for the Department of Defense as a computer technician and boasted that this made him beyond reproach. "It's not a government site or anything," he tweeted, "It would be the same as me hacking into a Wordpress. Not much the cops do about it." (McHugh did not respond to interview requests for this story).

Though Lostutter insists he didn't do any hacking himself, he swiftly aligned himself with McHugh as another member of KnightSec. The next day, Lostutter uploaded the second of its one-two punch against the football team: a video revealing that "we have gained access" to the Steubenville high web sites, as well as the personal emails of the Roll Red Roll webmaster, Jim Parks, which, they claimed, included photos of young girls. KnightSec called on the police to investigate "possible child porn" in Parks' account, and speculated that Parks might be paying the football "team to go to different parties and send him pics of girls they take advantage of." (KnightSec's claims turned out to be baseless. Anonymous later apologized to Parks after the FBI stated that the girls were over 18-years-old.)

Parks replaced Lostutter's video on the football club site with his own message to Anonymous, denying their "outrageous claims" and calling them "a terrorist group…simply [out] to get media attention and terrorize the Steubenville community." But in that combustible way that only happens online, KY went viral again. CNN, Fox, ABC, and other major news sites picked up the story. YouTube views of Lostutter's manifesto skyrocketed, along with his Twitter subscribers, which soared over 35,000.

Roseanne Barr championed Lostutter on her blog and radio show. "He's been through a lot in his own childhood, I feel compassion for him," she tells me, "I think he's brave."

With the support of celebrities, civilians, and well known Anons, Lostutter quickly organized two rallies in Steubenville called Occupy Steubenville, on behalf of the victim. On December 29, over 1000 people gathered outside the courthouse in Steubenville for KY's protest. Many donned Guy Fawkes masks, and took to a microphone to voice their support and share their stories. In a dramatic turn, some of them spoke of their own sexual assaults and rapes, removing their masks to show themselves to the crowd.

Among the attendees was Brandon Sadler, a family friend of Jane Doe's who spoke with the victim and later shared her message to KY and the other Anons. "She said she was very thankful we [had] Anonymous along," he wrote, "…she was happy we remained here..we were her voice..she didn't need to speak..she was aware of that. She has been reading all the tweets and messages of love and support from members of Anonymous and the world and she is very grateful."

Lostutter didn't have the money to go himself, and figured it'd be dangerous to do so anyway. But back at his farmhouse in Winchester, he followed the live streams of the event with pride, so much so that he got "big-headed," he says. He was just some guy in middle-of-nowhere Kentucky but with push of button he could unleash an army. "I could literally tweet out something and get 100 replies and then I could say 'Hey I need this' and I'd get shit tweeted to me," he says, "It was like I had 1000 assistants, you know, it was nuts."

When one Steubenviller threatened to find KY and kick his ass, Lostutter flamed him back. "Hey I'm running your whole town from the comfort of my toilet," he tweeted, "How's that feel?"

As the clock ticked down to New Year's Eve, the world was waiting to see if the Steubenville players would cave in to KYAnonymous' threat and apologize — or face the wrath of having their personal information leaked online. But just before the deadline reached, Jane Doe herself intervened, telling KY, through Sadler, that she didn't want the innocent people on the team to suffer. Lostutter reassured Sadler that the dox threat was just a scare tactic all along. "I had a bigger bombshell than that anyway," he tells me.

Not long before, he had received a video file from a mysterious person on Twitter. The 12 minute clip showed Michael Nodianos, a former Steubenville jock, drunkenly joking about the rape on the night of the attack, referring to the victim repeatedly as the "dead girl." He said, "they raped her harder than that cop raped Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction" and "peed on her. That's how you know she's dead, because someone pissed on her." Through his lawyer, Nodianos later apologized.

On January 2, Lostutter uploaded the video to several sites in case any came down. The outrage went instantly viral, with the major news site and blogs linking to the post. Later that day, a site called Local Leaks released a massive dump of what it called "the Steubenville Files," alleging various crimes and misdeeds among prominent members of the town. A new timeline of the rape, based on allegedly inside accounts, said the girl had been drugged then dragged from party to party to be abused. They also unearthed tweets of Cody Saltsman writing of the victim that he had "never seen anything this sloppy lol" and "I have no sympathy for whores." As Lostutter says, "There's literally, like, no hacking required to know how much of a jackass these people are." Saltsman later apologized for the tweets and his posting.

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