A 26-year-old Kentucky man says the FBI raided his home earlier this year in an attempt to investigate two hacker groups and the role they played in exposing the players linked to a high-profile rape case in Steubenville, Ohio.
An aspiring rapper from Winchester, KY named Deric Lostutter revealed Thursday that agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a search of his home two months ago and seized computers, electronics and other items pursuant to a warrant signed April 15 by a federal judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
Lostutter has not been charged with any crime yet, but the FBI combed through his house in search of items pertaining to the hacktivist group Anonymous and an offshoot, KnightSec.
According to the warrant, Lostutter is likely the target of an investigation into KnightSec’s online campaign earlier this year to collect, analyze and distribute information about the gang rape of a teenage girl the previous summer in the town of Steubenville, around 400 miles away from Winchester near Ohio’s border with Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The 16-year-old victim, whose name has not been published due to her age and the brutal nature of the crime, testified in court that she didn’t even know she had been assaulted until she learned about the incident on social media the following day last August. Images began circulating the next morning of a seemingly lifeless body being dragged by teenagers across the room of a party, and several witnesses tweeted accounts of a high school rager that went terribly awry.
“Everybody was drinking,” one of the two men later convicted of the assault told ABC News earlier this year.
Two athletes from the Steubenville High School “Big Red” football team were arrested and charged with the sexual assault, but KnightSec said there was more to the story. Even though evidence surfaced online showing that there were more than just two high school students privy to the assault on the night it occurred, authorities only charged two Big Red athletes, and the media made little note of the event. That changed in late 2012 when KnightSec suddenly emerged and began to engage “Op RedRoll” in an effort to draw attention to the assault and what some called an orchestrated cover-up to keep the case under wraps. Before long, the group began publishing emails, videos, images and other media that they said tied more than just two perpetrators to the crime.
Then in January KnightSec released a video of another Steubenville High athlete mocking the assault only moments after it occurred. The clip quickly circulated around the Web and the previously ignored rape case gained the attention of the mainstream media. The judge in the case later noted the role of KnightSec and Anonymous in exposing the story, and a number of articles and investigative pieces were launched by outlets across the United States.
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were convicted in March after a court agreed that they digitally penetrated the girl, first in a car and then in a house, and they stand to stay in detention until they both turn 21. Op RedRoll and KnightSec both relaxed operations after, but now it’s been revealed that the FBI wasn’t ready to call it quits.
Lostutter wrote online this week that authorities stormed his house in April in search of, among other items, information about the hacking of rollredroll.com, an unofficial website for the football team that was compromised earlier this year during the KnightSec campaign. When asked to identify himself during the raid, Lostutter said he did so by stating the moniker used by the hacktivist who spearheaded the operation.
Lostutter said he went to answer his door when around a dozen FBI Swat Team agents jumped out of a truck and pointed assault riddles at his head.
“I was handcuffed and detained outside while they cleared my house. My brother soon emerged later with his new girlfriend, both bewildered that the FBI was at my house seeing as I have no prior criminal history, both of them in handcuffs as well,” he wrote. “The Swat team left my belongings in the floor, my dogs shocked, my family nervous, my garage door battered open with a ram though I stated I had a key and the RV camper window broken for entry though I stated to pull hard on the door.”
“They said, ‘Who are you?’ I responded, ‘KYAnonymous,’” he wrote.
In February, a hacker using the alias “Batcat” told the Steubenville Herald-Star that he hacked Rollredroll.com after being approached by KYAnonymous. When Lostutter’s home was searched two months later, he said the FBI showed him emails allegedly sent between himself at Noah McHugh, the hacker said by authorities to have compromised the football team fan site using the Batcat alias.
The search warrant executed authorized the FBI to seize records and information relating to conspiracy to gain authorized access of Rollredroll.com, an associated email account registered to the site’s webmaster and other information that could have been obtained by gaining access to those servers. They also attempted to see “any and all accounts used to communicate with the online ‘hacker’ groups KnightSec and/or Anonymous,” as well as malicious software and Guy Fawkes masks — the disguise that has become synonymous with the hacktivist collective.
Lostutter has not been charged yet, but believes an indictment is being penned in secrecy right now.
“I was emailed their intent to send out a ‘Target Letter’ which means they are going to try to indict me for a federal offense, (most likely a felony and two misdemeanors) to a secret grand jury of 23 individuals, for which I cannot be present to state my side, nor state my innocence,” he wrote.
Jason Flores-Williams of the Whistleblower’s Defense League said he will be representing Lostutter if the indictment is filed, and spoke Thursday of the matter to Adrian Chen of Gawker.
“We certainly hope the United States comes to its senses and decides not to indict, and if they do we will aggressively litigate the incident,” said Flores-Williams. “What’s unique here to me is that it’s not a national security issue. This isn’t at the forefront at the NSA or the CIA. This comes out of the heartland of the country, and this is a person who is just trying to do what is right for the heartland.”
On the Whistleblower’s Defense League website, a page for case says Flores-Williams will represent Lostutter pro bono. “Deric had the courage to stand up against rape — should we not now have the courage to stand with him?” the page asks. The WDL was formed earlier this year by Flores-Williams and Jay Leiderman, a California-based attorney who previously represented a man accused of being the Anonymous hacker known as Commander X.
A spokesman for the FBI’s Cincinnati office, Todd Lindgren, said in an email to Gawker, “we are unable to confirm or deny the existence of any potential investigation into this matter.”