The sheriff investigating the alleged rape in Steubenville, Ohio, has not made friends with Anonymous after the hacking collective's document dump this week accused him of being close with Steubenville High's football coach, deleting video evidence, and running "the largest illegal gambling operation in Jefferson County." So it was strange to see the sheriff on stage at the Occupy Steubenville rally Saturday afternoon.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla has been targeted as the symbol of the corrupt nature surrounding the city and its relationship with the Big Red football program, ever since rape charges against two members of the team became national news again on Wednesday. Whether because of the increased attention or not, the investigation has deepened already — CNN reports the FBI offered "some technical assistance" to state authorities in charge of the case.
On Friday evening, Abdalla was declaring war against Anonymous. He had previously expressed his concerns about the information being distributed by the hacking group — the names of the accused, who are being charged as minors; the teammate whose video went viral and now may be in trouble with Ohio State University — but not to this level. Abdalla told WTRF in a new interview that he was "coming after" Anonymous.
The hacking group wasn't threatened by the small town sheriff, though:
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Still, some time between Friday night and Saturday afternoon, Abdalla had a change of heart. In the middle of the Anonymous-organized Occupy Steubenville gathering Saturday afternoon — many rape victims spoke to the crowd of more than 1,300 rallyers, with many more watching on UStream — Abdalla showed up and took the stage:
The crowd didn't receive him that well. Abdalla stuck around for a few minutes after this video ends, and was largely met with boos from the crowd. But it's pretty amazing that he showed up at all, considering what he said the night before.
Unfortunately, the video above doesn't contain the best part of Abdalla's appearance. The Anonymous member MC'ing the event — the one standing next to him in the picture above — actually got a chance to interview the sheriff at one point. When asked about the now notorious video of the member of the football team joking about raping the victim, Abdalla said he found it "disgusting." He told Anonymous that he was aware of the video's existence, but didn't watch it until three days ago, when Anonymous and their partners at LocalLeaks was first broadcast to the public via their constantly updating Steubenville Files.
Meanwhile, the city of Steubenville, in a direct response to the social-media storm swirled up by Anonymous and LocalLeaks, on Saturday set up a new site called Steubenville Facts. CNN reports:
With looking at the facts of the case, the rumors, the social media ... we proceeded in setting up SteubenvilleFacts.org that will present only the facts and provide information on the government of the city, as well as the transparency and the timeline of the evidence," Cathy Davison, the city manager, said during a news conference Saturday.
She said the website is meant to combat the perception that "everyone in Steubenville is acting or is like the individuals that are involved in the case. That we are a community that is run by football. That is not the case."