back to article Hacker who helped find Steubenville rapists threatened with decade in prison

A security consultant who helped uncover evidence of the repeated rape of an Ohio teenager has been raided by the FBI and charged with offenses that could see him spend 10 years in prison. Last year, a 16 year-old girl from Steubenville, Ohio was repeatedly assaulted by members of the local football team, dubbed Big Red, after …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How ironic

    The irony is the NSA most probably had all the evidence all the time.

    1. LarsG

      Re: How ironic

      Yes, and you must never embarrass the people in charge, they don't like it at all.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How ironic

      No, they will have passed it on to GCHQ in the UK first after GCHQ requests the information on a nudge and a wink from the NSA, then they will ask GCHQ if they have any information relating to it.

      GCHQ will then say that they do and pass the information back to the NSA.

      In this way they can bypass all the safe guards ensure they need not court orders to get the information.

      Confused? You're meant to be.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How ironic

        That's "Echelon". It's been in place for almost as long as FISA.

        Next we have "Carnivore", which records everything - that's why the NSA accesses credit card records. etc.

        The military runs the NSA, and is Constutionally forbidden to take action inside the country. Clearly, they have scant regard for what they serve and protect.

        1. tony2heads
          Big Brother

          Re: How ironic

          They serve and protect the rich and powerful ! Who else?

      2. FrogInABlender

        Re: How ironic

        I have been aware of this type of "cooperation" between Canada & USA since 1982. It amounts to a "back-channel" request by one party to have the other make a "challenge" request for a "person-of-interest" ... the 2nd ("challenge") request is the 1st official request & seems to originate from outside the jurisdiction that is "blocked" from wiretapping or whatever by lack of sufficient evidence of probable criminality. Having the request come in apparent good faith from a "friendly country" carries with it the ASSUMPTION that the (seeming) originator DOES have sufficient evidence to make the request ... and off we go !

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How ironic

          "originator DOES have sufficient evidence to make the request"

          Yeah, like that worked in Boston. Ohhh.... Sorry, me bad. It was an "Unfriendly country" originating the request, so we just ignore those.

    3. The_Regulator

      Lol, they may have had the information, the only question is could they actually find what they had inside the ridiculous mountain of data they are no doubt sitting on.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once again...

    No good deed goes unpunished.

    1. xperroni

      Re: Once again...

      Beat me to it.

      As fate would have it, The Art of Manliness is doing a series about "human sheepdogs" – i.e. people who go out of their way to help and protect others, as opposed to the "sheep" who just move along as if nothing's happening.

      Well, it seems that as if we already weren't short enough on sheepdogs, the state has decided to go after the ones who have the misfortune to fall under its sights, too.

      I wonder what'll become of our society after the sheepdogs are done with or beaten into passivity?

  3. Johan Bastiaansen

    the solution

    Rape the FBI goons and put the video on the web.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One small mistake here..

    The hackers gained control of the Big Red fan site and posted the information there.

    And that's probably also what got them into trouble. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this move also disrupted the option to take further legal actions against the rapists. Although it may sound quite sickening and inappropriate in this case, the law normally still abides by "innocent until proven guilty".

    Because although they may have found evidence I'm afraid that a lawyer will easily swipe it all under the carpet by merely insinuating that this group managed to gain "illegal access" to the computers thus "there's no telling if they actually got the material from there, or simply placed it there themselves". That's the kind of trouble you'll get yourself into.

    And then a lawyer will most likely simply explain the website defacement as an act of aggression against the club and you have probably raised quite some doubt when dealing with a trial by jury (or so I think).

    Its one thing to obtain evidence, using said evidence yourself will almost every time cause more collateral damage than you can anticipate. Its usually best to leak this and to make sure both the public as well as the justice system gets hold of it.

    And the worst part of it all is that the rapists are most likely going to get away with it.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: One small mistake here..

      "there's no telling if they actually got the material from there, or simply placed it there themselves". That's the kind of trouble you'll get yourself into.

      Except that a 12-minute video of the attack, showing the rapists doing it, might still be a difficult one to defend, even if you are a lawyer trained in obfuscation.

      1. The_Regulator

        That's assuming that the information is deemed as admissible evidence after someone hacked the site it was posted to though I guess....

        1. CaptainHook

          That's assuming that the information is deemed as admissible evidence after someone hacked the site it was posted to though I guess....


          Which would be a shame, but since the cops had already ruled out any further investigations, it's made no difference to the legal position before or after the hacking.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One small mistake here..

        Except that if we really followed the law in the USA it may not be admissible if it was obtained illegally. Sadly we now allow for good intentions by law enforcement, instead of requiring good police work to get evidence. What I'm saying is let the cops/prosecutors know about the evidence and that you will be releasing it to YouTube in some future time. Give them time to get the legal chain of custody in place so it can be used legally in court. Don't go releasing the evidence illegally and said look at me I did this great thing when the cops said it couldn't be done. Embarrass them yes, but don't go crowing about it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One small mistake here..

      Not sure if posting the evidence on the site would invalidate it (as long as the discovery did not violate laws). Hacking site will get him labeled as criminal (regardless of intentions) and the laws make it possible to turn any unauthorized access into crime (if they want they'll get you on this one, same with "supporting bad guys" - just give them the reason and one way ticket to resort Cuba is in the mail). In the end law is not about doing right things, it's about protecting the law (and these with better lawyers).

    3. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: One small mistake here..

      "And that's probably also what got them into trouble. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this move also disrupted the option to take further legal actions against the rapists. Although it may sound quite sickening and inappropriate in this case, the law normally still abides by "innocent until proven guilty"."

      Erm, yes, but are you even aware of the case? They were found guilty and (in many opinions) leniently sentenced. They weren't going to be charged at all until this guy forced the evidence into the public domain - AFAIK all this evidence was available to the police and ignored.

      1. Eguro

        Re: One small mistake here..

        Somehow I'd want a version of a Good Samaritan Law to protect the hackers in this situation.

        Now there are various formulations of such laws, but even the most lenient should provide protection for anyone taking reasonable action to assist someone in distress - a term I'd find applicable to a raped young girl, despite it's usual association with actions currently happening. Being raped and finding no justice in an apparently broken system, I'd count that as distress.

    4. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: One small mistake here..

      Talking about it.

      Just do it, anonymously and behind TOR or enough proxies, and from an IP not your own. Don't talk about it and do it from a computer that disappears afterwards. That way, even if they track you down, there's no physical evidence to find.

    5. Theodrake

      Re: One small mistake here..

      I'm confused by all the down rating of this posting. All the poster is saying is make sure the crime isn't swept under the rug, but make sure you don't stomp all over the evidence and contaminate it. Sounds like good advice if what we really want is justice.

  5. andreas koch

    Cliché, maybe.

    I can just imagine the Steubenville police chief: "You pimple faced loser of a nerd try and stich up our All American Football boys, just because they're having a bit of fun? I'll show ya, faggot!"

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Cliché, maybe.

      Arrest the footballers, put them in county for a night and throw a couple of girls into the cell ("arrested for resisting arrest" should shurely do). Then release in the morning. That should be excuse enough for the outrage, I would think? No need to go after the innocent hackers.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Cliché, maybe.

        Quote: "Arrest the footballers, put them in county for a night and throw a couple of girls into the cell..."

        "That depends on the girls ya know...

        During my uni days we had one guy caught using a date rape drug (why did he need it considering that the "audience" was "willing and able" is beyond me). He spent 40 days in hospital, 10 of them in intensive care after that. Stiletto heels can do an amazing amount of damage.

        Granted, that was in different times and not in USA (somewhere and sometimes more civilized by my reconing).

    2. teebie

      Re: Cliché, maybe.

      That is easy to imagine, which makes it all the more disappointing that the investigation into the hacking is being done by the FBI - they should be more interesting in the seemingly corrupt police chief who failed to go after the football team.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3 Tech Examples where 'Animal-Farm' Laws morph to 'keep us safer'...

    I'd like to add this case to these two others below and there's so many similar cases being documented every day! Following on from "Hague: Law-abiding Britons have nothing to fear from GCHQ". 3 quick examples related to tech :-

    #1. Hacking for education is becoming illegal. Indie security researchers and bug hunters are now being prosecuted and risk becoming extinct in countries that persecute them. As a result some have had to relocate elsewhere to places as exotic as Thailand...

    #2. Net filtering is creeping in-- all in the name of keeping families safe of course. But we saw how well that went in Australia with blanket IP blocks that took out dozens of innocent sites including a dentist....

    #3. Hacking to help solve a crime can lead to a harsher prison sentence for the hacker than the perpetrator.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surveillance is good for us?

    These are the FBI guys who say "Trust me! Trust me!" when it comes to the Surveillance of Everyone. Give me a break. They like power and don't worry much about abusing it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't play in NSA's sandpit

    Only Obama can hack u

  9. The BigYin


    A valid defences is that one committed a crime in order to prevent a greater crime. Obviously the crime in this case has already been committed, but would a defence of "I committed the crime to prevent a greater injustice" not hold?

    Of course, there's every chance he was more grey-hat than white-hat and has been up to some other shenanigans.

    Or maybe he should have waited until hired by the NSA before attacking computer systems?

    Then again the police (in many nations, not just the USA) have a long tradition of attacking anyone who dares to try and bring them to heel (e.g. by videoing tasering incidents etc).

    1. kain preacher

      Re: IIRC

      Problem with that is then any evidence they collected gets tossed. It's like this in the USA. If I break into your house and find drugs, and give the drugs to the police you are screwed. If I break into your house for the sole purpose to find drugs and turn them over to the police that evidence can not be used against you . AS it can be argued that you were acting as an agent for the police and there for would needed a warrant.

      1. Fehu

        Re: IIRC

        The 4th Amendment only protects American citizens from unlawful search and seizure by government agents. Private citizens who are not acting as agents of law enforcement can conduct searches of private property without a warrant and any evidence uncovered can be used to prosecute. However, a private citizen who enters another persons property without their knowledge or permission has already committed a crime and might also be liable for prosecution.

        All that said, however, it has little to do with the facts of this case or the similar one in Nova Scotia where the victim committed suicide when the police also said that there was not enough evidence to prosecute even though the perpetrators had posted pictures and video to the internet. The internet should abide by the same rules as a garbage can. The courts have held that when you put something in your trash can and put the trash can out by the curb, you no longer have an expectation of privacy and anyone can go through your trash and there's basically nothing you can do about it. Same way that the guy in Kentucky was just passing along pictures and video that someone else had downloaded from one of the sites that the perps had uploaded to. That was their little trash can. The hacking of the school web site was a separate incident and should be discussed as such.

        1. kain preacher

          Re: IIRC

          Case law says so. other wise the police could just as people break the law for them and there would be no need for the 4th amendment.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IIRC

        As Mr. Preacher says, and if my vague memories from my computer forensic studies do not fail me, in the US evidence which is illegally obtained cannot be used in court (it's a different story in the UK).

        I realise Mr. Thompson, the author, is in San Francisco and might therefore not know what the Daily Mail is, but that is where I would expect to find this kind of reporting, not here (no, really!)

        I understand how upset he might be about the perceived injustice, but unfortunately the legal system works in strange ways, which is why we have lawyers--people who make a pretty tidy living from trying to figure that out.

        At a minimum, I would have expected the article to get the prosecutor's side of the story, and a bit more analysis as to whether the alleged evidence uncovered by the hackers had any bearing, positive *or negative*, on the harshness of the rapists' sentence. We know from the article it helped get them prosecuted after that option had been ruled out, but was that because of the weight of this new alleged evidence in itself (I say "alleged" because I do not know whether it was used at all in court), or because of the media uproar that followed its public distribution?

        Also, I note the article says the hacker *could* see X number of years in jail and Y amount of hassle and disruption. It doesn't say it *has* been sentenced to any of that--it could equally be let off free or with a slap in the wrist. Ok, so it is perhaps a bugger that he's being prosecuted in the first place, that's no fun, but save us the sensationalism, please.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: IIRC

          " us the sensationalism, please." Sorry, but all the skiddies need the sensationalism, they need to feel persecuted for their victim fixation, so they can call themselves "real rebels".

          Whilst they uncovered evidence that does seem to have helped convict the real criminals, the vigilantes broke laws in doing so. If they had broken into the guys home and stolen his phone to extract the video it would be a crime and liable for criminal charges. If all the people on here don't like the difference in sentences handed out to the rapists then they need to change the law, but there chances of getting acceptance of criminal vigilante actions accepted as legal is very low.

          1. Cipher

            Re: IIRC


            "If all the people on here don't like the difference in sentences handed out to the rapists then they need to change the law"

            See the thing is when there is no investigation, no trial, no judgment, your argument disintegrates. The "hackers" sent out a wake up call, made it a national issue by revealing evidence even Barney Freakin' Fife could have uncovered.

            The cops in Ohio didn't want to mess up the football team, so they did not do their job. So someone did it for them...

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

              Re: Cipher Re: IIRC

              Oh puh-lease! The two rapists that were in the video have been convicted, what the sheeple are moaning about is that the "hackers" that found the evidence stand to be landed with longer sentences WHEN they go to court, IF they go to court at all. They completely ignore the fact that, having committed at least one criminal act in gaining the evidence (I suspect they hacked the email account linked to the guys phone and found he'd seen sending to his mates, exactly the type of e-crime the sheeple were shrieking indignantly about when it was News of the World), they then didn't give it to the local law or the State authorities or even the FBI, they instead committed ANOTHER criminal act in attacking the team's website to post the video. TBH, they might have got away with the first crime but the second was stupidly public.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IIRC

      I think the term "hacker" is way way over-blown here. The guy guessed that the team's secret question awnser was the name of the team. Calling this hacking is like calling removing a band-aid from your finger brain surgery.

      They are just really pissed at him for showing how the cops basically acted illegally by either not bothering to investigate a serious crime or ignoring evidence found in said investigation. The cops should all be taken before the judge facing prison over such incredible lack of effort.

      I mean seriously? He did YOUR JOB. YOU NEED TO BE SACKED.

  10. Daniel B.

    Oh man...

    This is stupid. So helping uncover a crime lands a worse sentence than the crime itself? CFAA needs to be fixed...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Funny thing, raids like this on hackers usually is not initiated by local police departments. I guess these cops are just plain pissed that their star football players were charged with a crime and they are going to make someone pay. Each one of those policemen along with the prosecuting attorneys should be fired over this!

  12. btrower

    Tough call

    I do not condone anyone breaking in to people's systems, including people who are arguably 'white hats'. It is a really tough call to say what I would do if I had to decide on it. The ends, noble as they were, did not justify the means.

    On the other hand, the situation had already gotten 'messy'. Clearly, the authorities were attempting to sweep this stuff under the carpet. Like someone else mentioned, it might make sense to excuse an improper action if it is taken to prevent an even more improper one.

    If I were the person being charged, I would be inclined to ask for a jury trial and get the whole thing in front of a Jury and let them decide.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Tough call

      If I were the person being charged, I would be inclined to ask for a jury trial and get the whole thing in front of a Jury and let them decide.

      A jury in Steubenville would hang the hackers. (Literally, were they to be allowed.) A jury trial in a more metropolitan area, with a sufficient number of women on the panel might result in a proper outcome.

      1. Lord Raa

        Re: Tough call

        It is entirely possible that I misread the article, but it looks like the crime took place across state lines, making it a federal offence.

        If that's the case, then it's possible that the trial venue could be a reasonably metropolitan area.

  13. Tom 35

    They have to nip these things in the bud.

    Sure they might be hacking rapists today, but tomorrow they could be hacking campaign contributions, secret email accounts, or all manner of embarrassing stuff.

    When the cops say there is nothing to see here...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: They have to nip these things in the bud.

      "When the cops say there is nothing to see here... the NSA has already seen everything"

  14. Someone Else Silver badge

    Ain't that Amerika

    The back story for this (for the non-US readers), is that Steubenville is one of those redneck towns where Men are Men, Women are Toys, and Football is Ghod. From the reports I've read, there was a very strong backlash against prosecuting these young boys, lest their futures get ruined for this one small indiscretion (their words, not mine). I'm sure that the Steubenville cops, having been thoroughly embarrassed by the hackers exposing their callous indifference or hopeless incompetence (that is an inclusive 'or'), got in touch with their "brother crime-fighters" in the local FBI office, and managed to gin up a healthy dose of retribution to assuage their embarrassment.


  15. Zola

    That CNN Video - is this what they call athletes in America??

    There are two "football" players interviewed towards the end (7:00) - there is no way that the clearly morbidly obese guy is an athlete, he seems to have difficulty walking properly FFS!

    But then if a lard arse can be considered an athlete in America, then of course those people helping to solve crimes and do the job of law enforcement will end up doing more time than the rapists. It all makes sense...

    1. Charles Manning

      Re: That CNN Video - is this what they call athletes in America??

      Ever seen a British dfarts player? They're called athletes too!

  16. heyrick Silver badge

    Football... that the version where they try to act hard-ass while wearing padding and crash helmets playing a game more akin to Health&Safety-approved rugby?

  17. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    IT Angle

    But then

    If the hacker had been a gun carrying member of the NRA and shot the rapists, he'd be carried shoulder high around the town for 3 days.........

    Is'nt a law somewhere that says if you break the law to reveal a worse crime, you can be let off with a token warning?

  18. Wzrd1

    As near as I've been able to ascertain...

    You all seem to worship vigilantism.

    Let the US expose you to what results in that world.

    Summary executions via lynching.

    Summary executions via shooting.

    Summary executions via knife.

    Summary executions via various other means, including bludgeon by hand.

    THAT is our context to review evidence and criminal trials. Indeed, considering various history between the US and the UK, you should be happy, lest we instantly eradicated ourselves mutually for misdeeds of the past.

    GROW UP!

    Some kids perfected a criminal act that I'd honestly consider eliminating my own child for performing.

    The horrible thing is, we raised two children. Out of 16 pregnancies.

    So, we tend to LOVE kids. We also know that they are assholes.

    And we know that some don't recognized *any* form of authority and end up in prison, in some US states, being executed.

    Just because your nation was shamed by executing a moron does not mean my nation may also do so (even money, it will, but the majority are far from that. Try approaching it from that aspect and offer a *real* solution.).

    Because, at the end of the day, if we offer a mass murderer and rapist in my community on parole and he/she is still ready to continue...

    They'd die. Period. I'll accept my punishment. My children and now, grandchildren will continue with one less threat.

    I'd also start a psyops operation on the populace that already agrees with me to do some mutually assured destruction things.

    1. intrigid

      Re: As near as I've been able to ascertain...

      So let me get this straight: You're criticizing people for worshiping vigilantism, and then you go on to say that you would be a vigilante and gladly accept your punishment?

      The amazing thing is that rest of your post made even less sense.

  19. Stephen Michael Kellat
    Black Helicopters

    Fourth Amendment Worries

    When the Ohio Attorney General's office has to take extraordinary action to become involved in a local prosecution, nothing about a case is normal. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation can take action to investigate in cases where something is perceived to be wrong with the local investigation. The Governor himself can order removal proceedings against any county Sheriff and any county's Prosecuting Attorney under Section 3.08 of the Ohio Revised Code if necessary for the causes listed in Section 3.07 of the Ohio Revised Code. Legal mechanisms exist within Ohio's legal structures to deal with many of the issues that episode brought up instead of the drama that played out in the news even to the north in Cleveland.

    This was not really a matter of "if" but rather "when". As it crossed a state line since the security consultant was based in Kentucky and the target was based in Ohio, FBI has primary jurisdiction within our federal republic. The case would likely go to a federal district judge in Kentucky in this instance since that is where the arrestee lives.

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    God Bless Americturd

    Home of the Brave (football players)

    Land of the free (to commit vile crimes)

    This story makes me want to puke, it's the poorest taste ever that law enforcement would rather protect a bunch of rapist jocks rather than prosecute them for something so vile. And at the same time try to terrorise a hacker for exposing this to the world.

  22. hugo tyson

    Parallels with the misidentification of not-the Boston bomber?

    ...might be a cause for concern. But indeed, you would think a sharp talking to by the FBI with the logo jackets and shades and everything would do the trick. So yes, fear conspiracy by the local incompetent biased law-enforcement.

  23. Peter Simpson 1

    Criminal hacking?

    Is it a crime if it's done to uncover evidence of a crime?

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Criminal hacking?

      "Is it a crime if it's done to uncover evidence of a crime?" Yes. It is a further crime to gain unauthorised access to a website and replace or deface it, even if you are posting evidence of a crime. That's the crimes we know happened - how many phones and/or email accounts of innocent boys got hacked looking for the evidence?

      1. Johan Bastiaansen

        Re: Criminal hacking?

        I don't know. How many phones got hacked by Rupert Murdochs gang? How many years is he doing?

  24. Green Nigel 42
    Black Helicopters

    Duplicitous Police morality

    No wonder the Teliban call the US the great Satan.

    Excuse me there's some one ran the door bell.....................................

  25. Robert Cunningham


    If this story proves true, the Ohio police and FBI should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

  26. CrashM


    The government want to do away with something they are scared of (hackers), this is like the days of hunting down women for being good at maths or medicine!

  27. Johan Bastiaansen

    The logic behind this

    They are not worried about rapists, rapists don't hurt "da man".

    They worry about hackers, hackers can hurt "da man".

    The solution, rape the FBI goons and put that video on the web. If the goons don't want their children to see that, they shouldn't have been protecting rapists. "But I was only following orders" went out of style at the Nuremberg trials.

    Oh, and don't forget to send them an invoice for a "crash course in empathy".

    The will become better people and the world will become a better place.

  28. Potemkine Silver badge

    As the poem says,

    "Ashes to ashes and clay to clay,

    If the enemy doesn't get you,

    your own folks may"

    Poor girl. May the bastards who rape her share some day the same fate.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nah, here's hoping the bastards who made that sickening video of their attack in the first place get out of prison with a BAD case of chronic piles, genital herpes, AIDS and assholes the size of goatse.

    Now that is payback.

    PS: I support vigilantes, so sue me.


    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: AC Re: Re.poem

      ".....I support vigilantes....." Whilst I agree with your sentiment I would suggest you support smarter ones next time.

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