On April 1, news leaked that Brad Pitt's Plan B production company has purchased the rights to a profile entitled "Anonymous vs. Steubenville" (www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/anonymous-vs-steubenville-20131127) for the purposes of developing a major motion picture about the so-called "Steubenville Rape Case."
The narrative of the Rolling Stone piece (the writer of which declined an interview request from me) is that Deric Lostutter, a self-appointed "member" of the international hacking group "Anonymous," had exposed a city-wide, high school football-led cover-up and helped bring the perpetrators to justice that they otherwise might have eluded.
Having lived and worked in Steubenville as a TV journalist, having spent an entire year with the football program to write a book and being the only person to interview several of the key players in this story, I can say with complete confidence that the narrative on which this proposed movie is based is totally false.
Here are the basic, indisputable, facts.
The rape took place in August 2012. Within a week, the two teenagers (who have never played a down of varsity football before or after the rape) were arrested and charged. The indictments of school administrators, which occurred late last year after a special grand jury, had absolutely nothing to do with a cover up of the original crime (as was proven by the fact that they are dated from April of 2012, several months before the acts the news media has claimed they were "covering up" even happened).
Lostutter, who lives in Kentucky and may never have even stepped foot in Steubenville, did not get tangentially involved in the case until Christmas 2012. That is when a video he did while wearing the infamous Guy Fawkes mask suddenly appeared on the hacked into Roll Red Roll fan website along with a grossly inaccurate and clearly defamatory written message about the entirely innocent website owner.
In the video, Lostutter (who, then known as KYAnonymous,) at first took to Twitter to both warn of and then brag about the (leestranahan.com/some-things-brad-pitt-likely-wont-be-putting-in-his-steubenville-movie) website hacking and made dramatic threats against the entire town. This blatant bullying (which he admitted to Rolling Stone was just a bluff), terrorized numerous innocent people during the holiday season.
Lostutter was not only flat wrong about almost everything he claimed during the website hacking (www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/06/09/anonymous_is_no_hero_118733.html) (which, despite his unambiguous Twitter posts, he is now somehow denying he took part in, even though such activity is at the heart of being part of Anonymous), but appears to have committed numerous felonies in the course of that action. Thanks to friendly media coverage he has raised quite a bit of money for his defense fund, but despite the proposed movie's apparent plan to turn him into a martyr, he has never even been charged as of yet.
It is perceived by the media that Lostutter is somehow a heroic figure because his theoretically noble ends (exposing a cover up and bringing rapists to justice) supposedly justified his unseemly means (probably illegal acts which terrorized innocent people). However, this too is utterly false.
Not only were the rapists arrested and charged long before Lostutter ever even heard about the case in The New York Times later that winter, but a transcript of the preliminary hearing from October 2012 (www.framingpaterno.com/sites/default/files/13.01.08-Transcript_Preliminary_Hearing.pdf) proves that not one shred of evidence in this case came to light because of his actions (including, contrary to media perception, the infamous Michael Nodianos video, which is clearly referenced in those pages.)
The reality is that the only "contributions" Lostutter made to this case were to provide the television news media with two provocative videos which they simply could not resist.
It was not until the masked hacking video captured the attention of The New York Times and CNN during the holiday news lull, and that was then followed up by the "She's so Raped" video, that television news finally found a sufficiently ratings-friendly hook to warrant significant national coverage of the case. The fact that the video, while obviously vile and disturbing, was totally immaterial because he was not a witness to anything which happened (and was a former student who never played football), was hardly ever mentioned in the news media.
As for Lostutter's vindication (which in the Rolling Stone feature he claims came with the late 2013 indictments of the school administrators), he did not have any role at all in those charges and, contrary to incompetent news coverage, they had absolutely nothing to do with the original case. Even more destructive to his credibility was Marianne Hemmeter of the Ohio Attorney General's office making it clear that his actions had "a chilling effect" on witnesses and greatly increased the pressure on the victim. (www.thewire.com/national/2013/06/steubenville-hacker/65976/)
Among those I have interviewed on camera about the case are two key members of the Jefferson County prosecution team.
Both of them have clear disdain for Lostutter and the negative impact he and his Anonymous colleagues have had on the case. They also think the notion that Lostutter could be portrayed as a hero in a major movie is beyond absurd. However, they were prevented from being directly quoted for this piece, which, ironically, is indicative of the very fear and cowardice which is likely to allow this moral monstrosity of a movie to actually come to fruition.
Thanks in part to this phenomenon, Brad Pitt now appears poised to make a film turning someone who, at best, was an attention-seeking hindrance to justice (or, at worst, a real villain) into an idol.
Hollywood is becoming increasingly notorious for butchering "true" stories to fit their agenda, but if this film gets made with the narrative of the Rolling Stone article on which it appears to be based, it would be the worst example of revisionist history I have ever seen.
This movie needs to be stopped and if the people of Steubenville are unwilling to prevent it, the never-ending nightmare of the rape case may very well have only just begun.
(Ziegler, a former local television journalist, lives in Los Angles and can be reached through JohnZiegler.com.)