Lostutter felt his heart race, his throat constrict, and a panic attack gripping him again. Before anyone else came home, he stormed upstairs and ripped open a dresser drawer, fishing his Anonymous gear out from under a pile of clothes: his flag, his mask, the stickers he'd plastered around town in the dead of night. With Thor barking behind him, Lostutter ran outside and tossed the stuff into his fire pit, dousing it with gasoline. If his girlfriend or brother came home and saw the blaze, he figured, they wouldn't be suspicious. "In Kentucky," he tells me, "we burn shit all the time."
The fire incinerated the flag, which was green and had Anonymous' logo of a faceless man in a black suit, white shirt, and black tie in the middle. The stickers melted in a gluey sheets, and the flames shot through the smiling eyeholes of the plastic Fawkes face, the same one that he wore the night he made his Steubenville video. But just because this stuff was going up in flames didn't mean his alter ego was too. "You don't need a mask to be Anonymous," Lostutter says.
Lostutter was vacationing with his girlfriend in Florida in March when he heard that 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma'lik Richmond were convicted for the Steubenville rape. But they only received the minimum sentences — one year for Richmond, and an additional one for Mays for distributing nude pictures of the victim. Though Lostutter appreciated that some justice had been served, he considered the sentences "a slap on the wrist" and still wanted to see other alleged conspirators that night prosecuted.
The next morning, April 17, after hunting turkey, he came back home to take a shower and heard a truck roll up his driveway. He assumed it was UPS delivering a t-shirt he'd ordered from a gun dealer, but a SWAT team stormed inside instead. "Get the fuck down!" They shouted, cuffing Lostutter as Thor helplessly watched. Awakened by the noise, Lostutter's brother stormed downstairs with his .45, thinking a robber had broken in, only to be cuffed too. As the cops turned the house upside down looking for what they called "anti-American" contraband, Lostutter told them, in his southern drawl, "I guess I know why you're here."
Lostutter claims he was not shown a warrant before the raid, nor was he Mirandized. As they showed him alleged correspondence between him and McHugh, they said they'd been watching him since before Steubenville and that someone out there was "selling you down the river." He says they'd spent hours smashing through his property, busting out the windows of his RV looking for evidence. He also claims they told him never to tell anyone of this raid or he would face additional charges for destroying and tampering with evidence. (The FBI did not comment).
When his girlfriend came home to the chaotic scene later that day, he finally broke down and told her of his secret identity as KYAnonymous. He had no idea how she'd react, but she threw her arms around him in support. "I think what he did was awesome," Hannah tells me, "he stood up for someone who no one else was." In that moment he felt something surprising, relief. "It's the most freeing fucking shit in the world," he says, "Like you're just living a double life and now you can just be you."
But the momentary relief turned to panic and outrage when Lostutter soon learned what they were after him for: hacking Jim Parks, despite McHugh's numerous admissions of having done that himself. Even worse, Lostutter couldn't believe what he was facing: 25 years in prison, he claims, more time than even the rapists themselves received. "I didn't hack. I didn't guess the password…I didn't do shit," he tells me, though he regrets any hardship Parks was caused along the way. What, if anything, does he think he's guilty of? "Standing up for good people," he says.
Despite the FBI's warning, Lostutter wouldn't sit down and stay silent. On June 6, he posted a message to his new site, ProjectKnightSec.com, introducing himself in the customary way of Anonymous. "Greetings Citizens of the World," he wrote. But now, for the first time publicly, he went by his real name. "I am Deric Lostutter," he typed, "and this is my story."
It was the blog heard around the world, as KYAnonymous's real identity finally became known, along with the details of his raid. For his opponents in the Steubenville case, the action against KY is comeuppance. "Everyone goes by prosecution guidelines," says McCafferty, "that's the way the legal system works." Even if Lostutter didn't do the hacking himself, blogger Lee Stranahan, who writes for the conservative Breitbart news and was among those who refuted KY's claims online, believes he's still guilty of calling the shots. "KY was the one who set up the conspiracy," he says, "He bragged about it. He talks too much."
But Lostutter now has powerful allies fighting on his behalf. His attorney is Tor Ekeland, a famed advocate for hacktivists such as Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer, who was sentenced to 41 months in prison for hacking the iPad, and Matthew Keys, the social media editor for Reuters, who has been indicted for allegedly helping Anonymous hack his former employer. Both, like Lostutter (and Jeremy Hammond, who recently was sentenced to 10 years in prison for hacking the global intelligence firm Stratfor) were prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. "I understand having the CFAA apply to real hacking but name me the victims in the Swartz case, Weev's case, and Lostutter's case," Ekeland says. Then why go after Lostutter at all? "He's high profile," Ekeland says, "I think anything that has to do with Anonymous scare the hell out of the DOJ. Hackers are the new communists."
But while Lostutter awaits his indictment, he's still fighting the fight against Steubenville, posting new leaks and information, and raising donations for his legal defense, on ProjectKnightSec. He has also been posting regularly on behalf of Operation Maryville, the campaign for a 14-year-old rape victim, Daisy Coleman, which is still ongoing. Several hundred protesters, including Anons in Guy Fawkes masks carrying daisies, recently gathered in Maryville's town square demanding justice.
There was one more rally in Ohio too, but this time it wasn't Lostutter's doing. It was organized on his behalf by Demand Progress, the activist organization co-founded by Swartz, and UltraViolet, the women's rights group. For UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary, his prosecution is "horrifying," she tells me, "This is rape culture at work. Deric helped expose a horrible crime and cover-up, and he is facing five times more jail time than the rapists? It's disgusting and it's a wake up call for our entire nation."
Unbeknownst to Lostutter, the two groups had launched an online petition in his defense, and gathered over 400,000 signatures. Now they invited him to come with them to Columbus hand it over, in person, to the Ohio Attorney General. "'That sounds cool," he told them. He'd go, but on one condition. "I'll need armed security," he said, "People want to kill me."
They agreed to his request. Lostutter went on eBay and bought a new Guy Fawkes mask for $10. He drove up to Columbus with his brother and his girlfriend. Outside the Attorney General's office, Anons had gathered to support him. From behind his Guy Fawkes mask, Lostutter thanked the crowd then removed it to show his face at last. "I feel more powerful speaking with the mask off," he says, "'cause it's, like, me."
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