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Steubenville Rape Case: Ohio authorities create website to sort fact, fiction in high school football player sex charges

Activists from the online group KnightSec and Anonymous protest at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. Members of the group said they are outraged over what they contend is a cover-up in a case involving the alleged rape of a teenage girl by Steubenville High School student-athletes that reportedly occurred in 2012. (AP Photo/The Plain Dealer, Thomas Ondrey) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES Thomas Ondrey

(CBS/AP) COLUMBUS, Ohio - Authorities investigating rape accusations against two high school football players in Steubenville launched a website Saturday designed to combat the alleged misconception "that the football team runs the city," the city manager said.

Two 16-year-old boys are set for trial next month in juvenile court in the eastern Ohio town with a population of about 18,000. The boys, whose names have not been released, face charges that they raped a 16-year-old girl in August. Their attorneys denied the charges in court.

Public interest in the case increased this week with the circulation of an unverified video, more than 12 minutes long, which allegedly shows another young man joking about the accuser. The video apparently was released by hackers who allege more people were involved and should be held accountable.

City Manager Cathy Davison said that the release of the website is aimed to combat a common perception that Steubenville High School - home of the "Big Red" sports program - controls politics in a small city where special prosecutors and a visiting judge are handling the case because local authorities knew people involved with the football team.

"When people are saying that our police department did not follow procedure, that the football team runs the city, that is not the case," Davison said. "They went by the book. Everything was handled in an above-board fashion to make sure that the case can benefit from the fullest extent of the law."

Intended to sort fact from fiction, the website has the appearance of a legal briefing, with black type on a white background, providing a timeline of the case, summaries of Ohio laws that affect sex charges, online posts and reaction to them and a pledge of transparency.

"It looks very generic, but it was meant to be (that way), because it's just the facts. There's nothing flowery about it," said Davison.

The site, sponsored by Steubenville city and police officials, explains that only a handful of police officers attended local schools and that the city manager herself is not even from Ohio. Its launch followed the hiring of a consultant who's helping the city handle a barrage of media attention sparked by the case.

The site, sponsored by Steubenville city and police officials, explained that only a handful of police officers attended local schools and that the city manager herself is not even from Ohio. Its launch followed the hiring of a consultant who's helping the city handle a barrage of media attention sparked by the case.

The site declares it "is not designed to be a forum for how the Juvenile Court ought to rule in this matter."

"Steubenville is a fantastic place to live, work and play," Davison said. "We have warm and loving people here, and this incident could be anywhere in America or the country or the world, and it's really unfortunate that it's tarnishing the city's reputation."

The investigation spurred heated commentary online as some support the defendants and question the character of the teenage girl, while others allege a cover-up or contend more people should be charged.

The latter group includes hacker-activists associating under the Anonymous and KnightSec labels who point to comments they say were posted around the time of the alleged attack on social media by people who are not charged.

At a second peaceful protest at the local courthouse in as many weeks Saturday, protesters, some wearing masks, gave details of their own rapes or those of relatives. They lamented what they said was a laissez faire attitude towards sexual crimes in the community.

More on Crimesider
Jan. 4, 2013 - Video depicts teens laughing about alleged sexual assault victim: "She is so raped right now"

  • Crimesider Staff

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