A Kentucky man who drew attention to the Steubenville, Ohio, juvenile rape case said on Wednesday that the FBI is targeting him because he and other online activists seek social justice through a network of technologies that the government designed to spy on Americans.
Deric Lostutter, 26, uses the online name KyAnonymous as a member of the shadowy “hacktivist” group Anonymous. He said federal agents raided his rural home on April 15 searching for evidence that he hacked the Steubenville High School football team’s web page.
Though Lostutter said he did nothing illegal, he believes the government will indict him.
“They’re scared,” Lostutter told the Tribune-Review. “What they intended to do is put a spider web of surveillance over us (so) any email you send, any picture, the government has it on a big server. But it backfired. They gave us a … sidewalk to hold signs on instead.”
Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lexington, Ky., declined to comment.
Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office credited Anonymous with helping to educate people about the case and what constitutes rape, but she said the attention thrust a 16-year-old Weirton, W.Va., girl into an unwanted spotlight because naked photos of her online humiliated her.
The Tribune-Review does not identify sexual assault victims.
The girl recently finished the school year with academic honors, said Bob Fitzsimmons, a Wheeling, W.Va., attorney for the family.
“Her life and her whole family’s life has obviously changed,” Fitzsimmons said. “She’s doing as well as can be expected.”
Anonymous is a non-structured group that takes to social media for “change,” Lostutter said.
He got involved in the rape case after seeing disturbing photos and tweets from parties that dozens of drunken teenagers attended in August. He said he feared officials would cover up the case because the suspects — Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16 — starred on the popular Big Red football team.
“I got mad,” Lostutter said. “I didn’t want this girl’s rape to be swept under the rug. So I took to social media, basically, and it spread like wildfire.”
Lostutter said he posted a video on the high school website but did not hack into it. Another hacker took credit for that, he said.
The case quickly drew international attention. Anonymous organized three rallies in Steubenville, including one that drew more than 1,000 people. Protesters wore Guy Fawkes masks, the symbol of Anonymous.
“We are the megaphone of the public,” Lostutter said. “Anonymous is everyone and no one. If you want change, you’re Anonymous.”
In March, a judge ruled Mays and Richards delinquent, the juvenile equivalent of a guilty verdict, on rape charges. Mays must serve two years in a juvenile facility; Richmond, one year.
Lostutter said he opened the door to FBI agents at his home because he thought FedEx was delivering a pro-gun rights shirt he had ordered online.
Agents handcuffed him, his younger brother and his brother’s girlfriend and held them for three hours, Lostutter said. Agents confiscated computers, cellphones and other devices, he said.
“I asked for a copy of the search warrant, and they said, ‘You’ll get it later; now shut up,’ ” Lostutter said. “It was a smash-and-grab operation — let’s see what we can find. They were raiding me because I was in the media making an (example) of Steubenville and asking questions that needed answers.”
Lostutter’s attorney, Jason Flores-Williams of Santa Fe, works with the Whistleblower Defense League. He said Lostutter could get 15 to 25 years in prison, based on maximum federal sentencing guidelines for computer crimes.
“That’s one heck of a contrast,” Flores-Williams said, noting that Mays and Richmond got two- and one-year sentences for rape, respectively.
Chris Togneri is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or [email protected].