PROTIP: Press 'i' to view the image gallery, 'v' to view the video gallery, or 'r' to view a random entry.
Steubenville Rape Case refers to the ongoing trial of two Steubenville High School student athletes who have been charged with alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl from Weirton, West Virginia in August 2012. Due to its highly publicized nature, the case has become a notable topic of discussions on social networking sites and other online communities.
On August 22nd, 2012, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, two football players from Steubenville High School in Ohio, were arrested and charged with alleged rape and kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl from Weirton, West Virginia at a party on August 11th.The kidnapping charge was subsequently dropped and the trial is scheduled for February 13th, 2013. However, as of January 6th, attorneys are attempting to postpone and relocate the trial after the backlash caused by the social media attention.
When her parents went to the Steubenville police on August 14th, they came with a flash drive containing the photographs, screenshots of the tweets and a video in which a former Steubenville baseball player was shown discussing a rape.
August 2012: Blog Coverage
Following the local news report of the arrests, a few bloggers began discussing the case online, including Ohio-based crime blogger Alexandria Goddard who began detailing the case on her personal blog on August 24th. Goddard’s posts highlighted tweets about the events and a YouTube vlog tagged with “rape” and “drunk girl” that she had found on the social media accounts of the two boys. In October, she was sued for defamation by the parents of one of the students named on her blog, but as of January 4th, the suit had been dropped. Following the rapists’ guilty verdict, Goddard was publically praised for her work bringing attention to the case.
December 16th: New York Times Coverage
On December 16th, 2012, the New York Times brought the case to national attention after publishing an in-depth look at the case, specifically the manner in which the story unfolded on Twitter and Instagram as people began sharing explicit photos of the victim. The piece also detailed the response of Steubenville’s football coach Reno Saccoccia, who defended his players and stated in November that he did not “do the Internet” or see the pictures or comments being shared.
December 23rd: #OpRollRedRoll
In late December, an offshoot group of Anonymous known as KnightSec got involved with the case by hacking into the football team’s website and replacing the page with a video message warning that the group would release personal information for every student and staff member involved in the case unless an apology was issued to the victim. Operation RollRedRoll was launched on December 23rd, named after the Steubenville High School football fan site RollRedRoll.com. On January 1st, 2013, Local Leaks put up a blog post titled “The Steubenville Files,” detailing the people involved in the case including the owner of the fan site, James Parks, whose email was full of pornographic images of young women, and Coach Saccoccia, who allegedly gave drugs and alcohol to athletes who excelled. The post also profiled six students known as “The Rape Crew,” one of which had admitted to raping a girl in a leaked video.
December 29th: Occupy Steubenville
In conjunction with Operation RollRedRoll, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Jefferson County Court House in support of the victim on December 29th, 2012. Dubbed “Occupy Steubenville,” the event went onto spawn the hashtag #OccupySteubenville and the official Twitter account for the movement @Oc_Steubenville, which launched on January 3rd, 2013. A second rally was held on January 5th, which had a much larger turnout, estimated between 2,200 to 3,000 people. 
January 2013: Trial News Coverage
Shortly after the launch of the Anonymous operation and the Occupy protests, additional news reports about the trial appeared on Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Slate, CNN, The Atlantic Wire, the Raw Story, New York Daily News, Bitch Magazine and Buzzfeed, among many others. In reaction to all of the media attention, Steubenville officials launched a website called SteubenvilleFacts.org, offering transparency information, a timeline of events, Ohio laws and facts about the police department.
January 2013: FBI Investigation
On January 8th, 2013, following another protest in the town, local officials received a “social media post” threatening a school shooting in the area,  which resulted in the lockdown of the town’s schools for two hours. After it was revealed to be an empty threat, the authorities initially blamed Anonymous for the message, to which KnightSec responded via Twitter denying any affiliation with the threat and dismissing it as a rumor stemming from an unknown third party. Within five days, the account was suspended.
The following day, the FBI launched an investigation into acts of cybercrimes surrounding the case after Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla reported that he had received an anonymous death threat against his family via Facebook, possibly in response to a video message the sheriff made in which he claimed he would be “coming after” Anonymous for their actions. The same day, Steubenville Police Chief William McCafferty received a suspicious email that caused his computer to shut down. However, the FBI has not officially commented on the probe, claiming that they were providing routine “technical assistance” in the case.
March 2013: Trial Begins
On March 12th, 2013, the lawyers for co-defendants Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays (shown below, left) filed a motion to have the case dismissed after a West Virginia judge ruled that the alleged victim did not have to testify during the trial. When the lawyers argued their clients wouldn’t have access to due process if the victim did not tell her side, the judge reversed his decision later that night. Judge Tom Lipps (shown below, right), who came out of retirement to preside over the trial, ruled that media would not be allowed to bring laptops, cellphones or iPads into the court room, due to the amount of online controversy surrounding the case. On the first morning of the proceedings, Judge Lipps immediately adjourned the trial for an hour to meet with lawyers on both sides to discuss admissibility issues with some of the evidence. The case is currently being tried in juvenile court, which does not have a jury in Ohio, and more than 40 witnesses are expected to take the stand.
Judge Delivers Guilty Verdict
On March 17th, Judge Lipps delivered a guilty verdict on charges of raping an intoxicated 16-year-old girl against Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, who were sentenced up to two years and one year in juvenile detention center respectively. Mays received an additional year for transmission of nude photos and both will be required to register as sex offenders. Meanwhile, The Ohio state attorney general revealed that a grand jury would be convened on April 15th to determine if other crimes were committed by the co-defendants during that night in August 2012.
CNN Coverage Controversy
During the last days of the trial leading up to the verdict, CNN came under harsh criticisms for its perceived bias in the coverage of the trial. On the web, there were numerous complaints that CNN reporters focused too much on humanizing the defendants and the negative impact of a guilty verdict on their lives, while failing to give equal attention to the victim’s family in the aftermath. There were several segments dedicated to the trial in which the victim was never mentioned at all, and instances in which the rapists’ parents’ testimony on how they were affected by the trial was shown without any comment on the harm caused by the assault. A Change.org petition calling for CNN to apologize for their coverage was created on March 18.
Many people on social networking sites, internet culture blogs and news media drew a comparison between CNN’s coverage to a satirical news story (shown below) about a college basketball star that “heroically overcame” the rape he committed that aired on The Onion’s short-lived Comedy Central series SportsDome in 2011. The clip was uploaded by former staff writer Krister Johnson on the evening of the 17th, and was shared that evening by HyperVocal in their coverage of CNN’s presentation. Within the next 24 hours, the clip was shared on the Huffington Post, Gawker, Thought Catalog, ABC News Univision and Mediaite among others, gaining more than 93,000 views.
| || |
Prinnified.com – Steubenville Big Red Rape Accusations: The Other Perpetrators
The Atlantic Wire – The Steubenville Rape Saga Now Includes a Shooting Threat
The Atlantic Wire – The FBI Is Now Investigating the Steubenville Backlash
The Daily Dot – As Steubenville rape trial begins, judge quiets social media
ABC News Univision – The Onion Predicted Media’s Handling of Steubenville Rape
Change.org Petition – CNN: Apologize on air for sympathizing with the Steubenville rapists.