It's probably fair to say that things have gotten a little out of hand in Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school football players are accused of raping a 16-year-old while she was drunk. If you've read anything about the investigation and court case that's now unfolding you'll know that what started out as a suspicious sexual assault has turned into a national outrage, and local authorities are dealing with some pretty serious backlash that includes death threats being made against their families. On Wednesday night, CBS News reported that the FBI had opened an investigation into such threats on local sheriff Fred Abdalla's family and a suspected computer virus that targeted the Steubenville police chief. It's unclear who the suspects might be, and the FBI isn't commenting on the probe.
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In a way, this new FBI investigation is a bit of a relief. The small football-crazed town of Steubenville has been obviously overwhelmed since scrutiny from Anonymous has been helping to elevate the rape investigation to viral status on the web. The firestorm of attention came to a head last weekend when 1,300 protesters descended on the town's city hall for an event dubbed Occupy Steubenville. Sheriff Abdalla even made an appearance, after having said on the radio that he was "coming after" Anonymous. (Since Anonymous doesn't take too well to threats, this might've had something to do with the death threats that he received over email and social media in the days after the rally.) Then, on Tuesday, police reported "some type of shooting threat" being made on social media prompting a lockdown on all local schools that lasted nearly two hours.
So you could say things have been tense. The more we learn about Steubenville and its long history of corrupt leadership, though, the more we can understand how this rape case pushed people over the edge. As recently as 1997, the Justice Department found the city's police department to have "have engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured and protected by the Constitution and the laws of the United States." And close ties between Abdalla and the Steubenville High football coach Reno Saccoccia -- think Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights, only more sinister -- have led many, especially those in Anonymous, to believe that the corruption never went away.
Who knows what the Feds will find when they take a closer look at the threats being hurled at Steubenville law enforcement. They might even find out something about the things the local cops are doing to attract such hatred. Then again, they might just be in the mood to arrest some more Anonymous members.