The hacktivist group Anonymous is known mostly for efforts to expose wrongdoing involving governments, multinational corporations, and large financial institutions. That might be about to change with the alleged gang rape and kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio.
The alleged attack, on a girl who reportedly was unconscious, happened last August. But it did not become national news until The New York Times reported a story titled "Rape Case Unfolds On Web And Splits City" on December 16.
Witness accounts via social media caused the story to spread. Anonymous helped break it wide open last week when it gathered information suggesting an official cover up and placed it on a WikiLeaks-style Web site.
Two members of the town's football team have been arrested and charged with rape. But the Anonymous reports hint at misconduct that goes way beyond two student-athletes--and it might include efforts by law enforcement and town officials to cover up crimes.
Could this be a sign that Anonymous is prepared to help fight the kind of rampant corruption in America's justice system that has been the focus of numerous posts here at Legal Schnauzer? Is Anonymous set to train its sights on rogue judges, prosecutors, and lawyers--and those who guide them, or in some cases, buy them off?
For example, let's ponder these scenarios:
* What if Anonymous took an interest in hacking various accounts that might reveal who caused Alabama resident Sherry Carroll Rollins and her daughters to be cheated in a Shelby County divorce case where the judge did not even have jurisdiction to hear the matter? What if Anonymous decided to scrutinize those who appear to be behind the Rollins v. Rollins fiasco--including Ted Rollins and his company, Campus Crest Communities; Randall Rollins and his company, Orkin Pest Control (Rollins Inc.); and Michele Rollins and her companies, Rollins Jamaica and Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment? What if that scrutiny extended to the Birmingham law firm of Bradley Arant, which apparently played a leading role in getting the case unlawfully shifted from South Carolina, where it had been litigated for three years?
* What if Anonymous took an interest in hacking accounts that might reveal who caused Chilton County Judge Sibley Reynolds to unlawfully send Clanton resident Bonnie Cahalane (Knox) Wyatt to jail for almost five months because of an alleged debt connected to her divorce case? What if Anonymous shined light on communications among Reynolds, Shelby Concrete president Bobby Knox, and various lawyers in the case--and that includes our old friend William E. Swatek, who was deeply involved in the Knox v. Knox divorce case?
* Even closer to home, what if Anonymous took an interest in hacking accounts that might reveal who caused me to be cheated out of my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)--and who caused Mrs. Schnauzer to be cheated out of her job at Infinity Property and Casualty. We have evidence in the form of a tape-recorded phone conversation that proves I was targeted because of my reporting on this blog about the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Mrs. Schnauzer, more than likely, was fired in part because she is married to me. What if Anonymous shined light on communications among former UAB President Carol Garrison, members of the UA Board of Trustees, and certain members of the legal and political communities who wanted to shut down my reporting? What if Anonymous decided to pry into Infinity's records and reveal who caused my wife to be fired?
Anonymous, understandably, has focused on matters that are national and international in scope. But the Steubenville rape case helps show that many American communities, of all shapes and sizes, are infested with cultures that protect certain individuals while encouraging abuse of others.
How powerful are reports on social media and via Anonymous? You can get an idea by checking out a LocalLeaks site called The Steubenville Files, which provides insights about a number of central figures who appear to have conflicts of interest or disturbing secrets in their closets. These include Jim Parks, the owner of a private fan site for the football team; sheriff Fred Abdalla; prosecuting attorney Jane Hanlin; and football coach Reno Saccoccia.
As for Anonymous, it has launched Operation Roll Red Roll, including a Web site that describes efforts to get at the truth of what happened in Steubenville. What impact has Anonymous had on the story? Consider this from a report at New York Magazine:
National interest in the August incident was renewed earlier this week thanks to the efforts of hacktivist group Anonymous, which has accused town leaders of trying to cover up the crime. In addition to a twelve-minute video of some Steubenville High School students joking about the victim, Anonymous released the names of a so-called "Rape Crew" (boys who may have known about, witnessed, or even potentially participated in the rape.) They also charged the sheriff tasked with investigating the matter, Fred Abdalla, with destroying evidence and running an illegal gambling operation. On Friday, Abdalla told a local news station that he intended to "come after" Anonymous, who he accused of "character assassination." However, he seemed to take a softer stance on Saturday, when he appeared in front of the 1,300 attendees of Occupy Steubenville, an Anonymous-organized rally in support of the victim.
Anonymous clearly has grabbed the nation's attention and caused serious discomfort for Steubenville officials. We are betting that the hacktivists eventually will greatly enhance the cause of justice in a small Ohio town.
Will this lead Anonymous to shine a spotlight on corruption that directly affects Main Street, USA? We hope so--and we can promise that "hackers for justice" will find no shortage of juicy material, here in Alabama and beyond.
The following video provides background on Anonymous' role in the Steubenville fray: