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Online outrage over Ohio rape case prompts city website

By CNN Staff
updated 10:01 PM EST, Sat January 5, 2013
  • The website is meant to combat false information about the case
  • includes background information on city officials
  • Throngs of protesters gathered at courthouse in support of alleged victim

Steubenville, Ohio (CNN) -- Amid social media pressure and allegations of a cover-up, leaders in Steubenville, Ohio, have launched a website to keep the community updated on a rape case that has consumed the small Ohio town.

"With looking at the facts of the case, the rumors, the social media ... we proceeded in setting up that will present only the facts and provide information on the government of the city, as well as the transparency and the timeline of the evidence," City Manager Cathy Davison said at a news conference Saturday.

Davison said the website is meant to combat the perception that "everyone in Steubenville is acting or is like the individuals that are involved in the case. That we are a community that is run by football. That is not the case."

Two 16-year-old members of the town's high school football team are charged with raping a girl in August. Special prosecutors from the state attorney general's office allege the teens sexually assaulted the girl while she was unconscious.

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The case gained national attention after The New York Times published a lengthy piece on it in December and the activist hacker group Anonymous posted a video of teenagers in the Ohio River valley town cracking jokes about it.

Anonymous and other critics have accused community leaders of trying to paper over rampant misconduct by team members and have suggested that other students took part in the assaults or failed to do enough stop them. Authorities have declined to say whether anyone else could be charged.

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Some residents have accused outsiders of trying to ruin the reputation of the town's high school football team.

Speaking alongside Davison, Police Chief William McCafferty said that several Steubenville residents, despite having no connection to the case, have been harassed and received multiple phone calls because of misinformation.

"I have to protect our citizens," he said.

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The website includes background information on city officials, noting that most of those directly involved in the investigation didn't go to the same high school as the suspects.

"The Chief of Steubenville Police has been in this position for 13 years and is not a graduate of Steubenville City Schools," the site says. "His child attends another school district."

The website also addresses the issue of the 12-minute video of the teens making jokes about the incident.

"Nothing in Ohio's criminal statutes makes it a crime for someone to ridicule a rape victim on a video or otherwise say horrible things about another person. Further, nothing in the law allows someone who says repugnant things on Twitter, Facebook, or other Internet sites to be criminally charged for such statements," according to the site.

"Steubenville Police investigators are caring humans who recoil and are repulsed by many of the things they observe during an investigation. Like detectives in every part of America and the world, they are often frustrated when they emotionally want to hold people accountable for certain detestable behavior but realize that there is no statute that allows a criminal charge to be made."

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On Saturday, throngs of protesters returned to Steubenville in support of the alleged victim and to protest the town's handling of the case. A similar rally was held last month.

Several demonstrators donned Guy Fawkes masks, considered symbolic of Anonymous. One protester held up a sign reading "I'm not against Big Red, I'm against rape," a reference to the high school's nickname.

Earlier this week, the group announced that it was planning the protest to "help those who have been victimized by the football team or other regimes."

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