Last month's indictments of four adults within the Steubenville, Ohio school system are the latest turn in the high profile 2012 rape case of a 16 year old girl by two high school football players. It was alleged that adults within the school system and the town acted to cover up the incident.
The girl and her family may never have found justice if it wasn't for the national attention the case received; on-line attention brought by a man known then only as "Kentucky Anonymous". Deric Lostutter has since revealed his identity as he fights the legal system for his own freedom.
In announcing the indictments, Ohio attorney general Mike Dewine said society as a whole shared in the blame for what happened and everyone has an obligation to help find the truth, not hide, obstruct or destroy the truth. Sitting in his home 350 miles away in Nicholasville, Kentucky, that was just what Deric Lostutter wanted to hear.
More than a year earlier, acting as "Kentucky Anonymous", Lostutter put on the infamous white, plastic Guy Fawkes mask and electronically altered his voice in making a video that helped bring the Steubenville rape case to national attention. He released on-line a cell phone video of the assault and threatened to release the home addresses and phone numbers and even the social security numbers of the suspects, the football team and school administrators unless, in his words, "all accused parties come forward and issue a public apology to the girl and her family." He called it a "warning shot" and let those involved know that they "have attracted the attention of the hive."
It turns out that was just a bluff and the victim herself later asked him to withdraw his threat, but almost overnight he was national news as the video went viral. "Yeah," Lostutter says, "and it should've. All these kids stood around filming it, laughing, watching it and mocking it and none of them stood up...they're all pieces of crap human beings. It was kind of appalling to me and to the nation, if not the world."
But while the boys who committed the the rape are now facing one to two years in jail, Lostutter is facing the possibility of 25 years behind bars for computer hacking. He had had previous success in on-line activism, "hack-tivism" as the detractors call it, most notably stopping Westboro Baptist Church members from disrupting the funerals for the children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting and his name was becoming well known in on-line circles. "I was bullied a lot in high school," he says, "and finally I got tired of it one day and started standing up for myself and fighting back and I found that people respected me more. I think it's an honorable thing to do to stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves."
But Lostutter learned quickly that philosophy of life comes with a price. Soon after posting a second video and organizing two separate rallies in Steubenville, he was starting to get some negative feedback from other Anonymous members that he was just trying to gain attention for himself. He was getting nervous that his secret identity, an alias not even his girlfriend or his brother knew, was in danger of being exposed on-line and in Winchester, the Kentucky town he was then living in.
In January he burned all his Anonymous gear and announced on-line that he was, in his words, "going dark" but it was too late. Almost immediately he received an anonymous reply saying, "Why would you do that Deric Lostutter of Winchester, Kentucky?"
Three months later, in April, the raid came.
"I was turkey hunting and came back home and had my computer up," Lostutter recalls; he was working from home as an IT consultant for Amazon at the time. "I was getting ready to go to work and my dog jumps on the door and out pops 12 SWAT team agents with fully loaded M-16's pointed at my head telling me to 'get the F down', so that's what I did." FBI agents from Columbus, Ohio, Lexington and Louisville were also part of the team as well as a "van full" of CSI agents who analyzed his computer.
Neither the FBI, the Steubenville school system or the U.S. Attorney's office for southern Ohio would comment on the the record for this report.
Lostutter's attorney is Tor Ekeland, a New York city lawyer who, almost by default, has become a leading expert in this new field of computer hack-tivism. He points out Deric isn't charged with anything now and he hopes he won't be, but "if they're raiding somebody's house with a SWAT team they'll probably indict under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which is the government's primary statute they use to prosecute computer crimes."
That statute, also known as the CFAA, has itself become almost as controversial as the people it's designed to prosecute since it was passed 25 years ago. Ekeland says the main problem is it "doesn't define what it seeks to prohibit. Unauthorized access isn't defined anywhere in the statute and the courts are all over the place in the country on it."
But for now, Deric Lostutter goes about his life the best he can with a new job at a car dealership in his new town of Nicholasville with a possible 25 year federal sentence hanging over his head, all without regrets