The blue-collar city of Steubenville, along the Ohio River across from West Virginia, became a national news story after a New York Times piece in late December questioned how seriously local authorities had investigated rape accusations against members of the Steubenville High School Big Red football team. A 16-year-old West Virginia girl may have been drugged and raped on Aug. 11, and possibly urinated on.
At the heart of this grisly and sometimes surreal story are allegations of a horrific rape, and callousness about it, when Americans are rightly outraged about how some women are abused in India. Trent Mays, the team’s quarterback, and wide receiver Ma’lik Richmond, both 16, are to stand trial in juvenile court Feb. 13.
Authorities should not allow the investigation to be swayed by the football program. If there was a cover-up, those responsible must be held accountable.
The hacker-activist group Anonymous and a group that claims to be associated with it, KnightSec, alleged preferential treatment for the city’s beloved football team. One video showed two males carrying the girl by her wrists and ankles; others had boys mocking her. The Internet went viral with the story.
Protests and threats ensued. Steubenville school officials ordered a 90-minute lockdown on Tuesday. Former porn star Traci Lords, a Steubenville native, recalled how she was raped in Steubenville at age 10.
Steubenville, a city known for past corruption, has created a special Web site to help sort out fact from fiction. Guards have been posted at Steubenville schools until further notice.
Steubenville High football coach Reno Saccoccia has been agitated by questions over his role, including one encounter in which he got nearly nose-to-nose with a reporter and was quoted as saying: “You’re going to get yours.”
At bottom, this increasingly wild story is still about the most horrific of allegations, and the quest for truth and justice. No one should forget it.