Target: Carter Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio
Goal: Obtain clemency for Deric Lostutter for exposing the cover-up of the Steubenville rapists
Last year, in Steubenville Ohio, an incapacitated minor was sexually assaulted and raped over the course of several hours by Steubenville High School football players. The local community, including Steubenville High football coach Reno Saccocia, was complicit in the cover-up. Hackers associated with the collective known as Anonymous obtained videos and images that lead to the filing of charges against two of the culprits, and the recusal of a county prosecutor and a judge because of their relationship to the football program. The “hacktivist” group also did data dumps about local law enforcement who they believed were attempting a cover-up and helped organize #OccupySteubenville protests to highlight the case and bring justice for the victim. Two of the football players were ultimately convicted and sentenced, and will have to register as sex offenders. The prosecution, the recusal of potentially prejudiced officials, and conviction were all helped by a trove of social media postings which were saved, and then rereleased, by an Anonymous hacktivist.
One of the hacktivists involved in uncovering the images and messages that led to their being charged and convicted, 26-year-old Deric Lostutter, has now been charged for “computer crimes” and “aggravated identity theft,” as well as “identity theft, attempt and conspiracy.” His house has been raided by the FBI, and his computers and personal property seized as evidence. If convicted, he will be sentenced to a longer prison sentence–ten years–than the two football players who raped and sexually assaulted a minor over the course of several hours, then asked their friends to help cover for them. Lostutter contends that all the data he released was saved from social media postings that were once publicly available, and that no hacking was performed.
Vigilantism cannot be justified; that is not what this petition is about. In a nation bound by the rule of law, citizens cannot act outside the limits of the law to achieve their goals, no matter how noble. If Mr. Lostutter’s claims are true, then he has done nothing illegal. Even if he has committed crimes, his violation of computer systems for the sake of exposing criminal conduct that local law enforcement would not investigate should not be punished more severely than the violent violation of a young woman’s body. Please ask the U.S. Attorney Carter Stewart to drop all charges against Mr. Lostutter.
Dear Mr. Carter Stewart,
I am writing to you in regards to the criminal prosecution of Mr. Deric Lostutter for alleged computer crimes, identity theft, and conspiracy for his involvement in exposing the Steubenville High School rapists. If convicted, Mr. Lostutter, a young man of twenty-six, would face ten years in prison, and carry a felony record for the rest of his life. Such a penalty is disproportionate to the crime, if any, he committed in the course of doing what local law enforcement would not do. I implore you to drop all charges against Mr. Lostutter.
In Steubenville, Ohio, the prestige of the local football team, combined with small-town cronyism and a larger culture of sexism and victim-blaming, would have allowed the local football team to get away with the brutal rape and sexual assault of an intoxicated minor. When the city’s police chief asked for witnesses to come forward, no one spoke up. While they initially bragged about the event on social media sites and shared pictures of the victim, the football players quickly deleted their posts, possibly on advice from parents, teachers, and coaches complicit in their crime. It was thanks to online activists, who saved and distributed the deleted posts, that two of the football players were convicted.
The administration of law depends on civilian involvement. Without ordinary citizens who are willing to report, give testimony, and preserve potential evidence, law enforcement would be incapable of doing its duties, no matter how well-manned, equipped, or funded. Mr. Lostutter contends that he did no hacking. He asserts that all the information he released was supplied to him by others, who initially accessed the information when it was publicly available, and he denies all involvement with hacking the Steubenville football team’s webpage. Another individual has even taken credit for that particular act.
Mr. Lostutter, along with Michelle McKee, who initially got him involved in the case, and Alexandria Goddard, who saved the initial flurry of social media postings by those involved in the rape, deserves to be commended for exposing crimes, not treated worse than the criminals he exposed. The person who exposes wrongdoing, even if they do so wrongly, should not suffer a greater penalty than the criminals whose misconduct he has exposed. Such a system sends a message that speaking out against injustice, and trying to bring wrongdoers to justice when the official system of law enforcement fails in its appointed task, is the greater evil. Please stand for justice and end this unjust prosecution of a man who did nothing but expose the wrongdoing of others.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: marsmet523 via Flickr