Who deserves twenty-five years in prison? A rapist? Or the man who helped to convict him?
This controversy began when an underage girl in Steubenville, OH, was raped by two Steubenville High School football players at multiple parties in one evening. Numerous people were around taking pictures of the assault, posting them on Instagram and social media sites, sending texts, and tweeting about it. After this happened and people knew what occurred, school officials and others supposedly attempted to keep this incident quiet.
Twenty-six year old Deric Lostutter refused to sit back and watch the rapists get away with it. He is a member of Anonymous – a group of “hactivists” who focus on Internet activism and vigilantism. They wear masks in the likeness of Guy Fawkes, who attempted to blow up the House of Lords in London in 1605. Lostutter obtained tweets, Instagram photos, and other information from social media sites regarding the rape of the girl. He then made a video in a Guy Fawkes mask stating that this was a “warning shot” and the group Anonymous would reveal personal information of those involved if they did not come forward to issue a public apology. Another member of Anonymous, twenty-two year old Noah McHugh, was able to hack the Steubenville High School (commonly know by the mascot, Big Red) football team’s fan page website by guessing the password to the “forgot your password” security question correctly: “Big Red”. In all it took him a total of about fifteen minutes. Lostutter’s video was then uploaded to the Big Red football’s fan website. This video brought media attention to the case and to the actions of those involved. The public demanded justice after learning about the facts of the underage rape.
The football players were eventually charged and convicted of rape. One was sentenced to one year in a juvenile detention center and the other to two years. As of 2014, the boy with the one year sentence was released after just ten months for good behavior. Deric Lostutter, on the other hand, is facing ten to twenty-five years in prison. The charges against him are alleged felony violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; he is being accused of possible identity theft, computer crimes, and conspiracy.
Firstly, Lostutter received the incriminating tweets and photos collected by someone who originally lived in Steubenville, Ohio and publicly obtained the information. The students who posted pictures and comments about the rape on social media sites for all to see did not seem to have an expectation of privacy since they openly shared and distributed this information. Secondly, McHugh, who hacked the website, denied any further involvement, and simply wanted to help raise awareness about this case. He does not expect to face any legal repercussions since the website was not a government site. Lastly, from the video, Lostutter threatens to release personal information of those involved if they do not come forward and issue a public apology.
There are many individuals and groups out there who believe Lostutter acted in good faith and should be rewarded for bringing attention to this injustice. Petitions opposing sending him to prison have been passed around along with a request to President Barack Obama and the Kentucky State Governor to pardon him and clear him of all charges.
Lostutter raised media attention regarding an injustice which was going to be covered up. Two rapists were going to get away with a crime and affect a young girl’s life forever. Since officials who knew about the rape were trying to conceal it, she would not get the justice she deserved. He helped to raise awareness about how social media can be used to gather information and also about the severity of sexual assault and rape. Lostutter didn’t care that these two boys played on a popular football team which the town adored; he wanted justice to be brought to them for which their actions deserved.
Deric Lostutter is facing more time in prison for helping to get these boys convicted than the actual rapists themselves. One rapist is walking free and the other will soon. Is Lostutter’s possible future twenty-five year sentence what he deserves? Is this justice? I can’t answer these questions – only a judge and court can determine the answers.
About Katherine Helenek
Katherine Helenek holds a Master’s of Forensic Science specializing in Digital Forensics, Forensic Chemistry, and Crime Scene Investigation from Marshall University. She is an AccessData Certified Examiner (ACE) and a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). She is now a Forensic Examiner with Digital Intelligence. Katherine is co-author of Social Media Investigation for Law Enforcement by Anderson Publishing.