The New York Times published a blockbuster report today on an ongoing rape case today that is fascinating and disturbing. The case involves a handful of high-school football stars in a depressed Ohio town and a girl from across the river who says she was too drunk to consent. Some details of the alleged rape — which occurred in semipublic at a series of parties — were documented in sickening pictures and tweets. How lucky, a prosecutor might think, that the teenage desire to tweet applies equally to what you had for lunch and how you raped this girl. (Hey, this also applies busting gang activity.) A crime blogger following the case — who has since been slammed with defamation suits — called it a “slam dunk.”
On the other hand, the defense is using the victim’s habit of posting provocative photos on social media to show that her “at-risk” behavior means she probably actually did consent. And if that kind of character assassination scares you, don’t you have to be equally worried about the young men who tweeted things like, “Song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana” while a 16-year-old was allegedly getting raped?
These questions would be much more interesting to ponder in the abstract, confident the victim is getting a fair trial. But in addition to the challenges of piecing together tweets and getting athletes — especially on the school’s celebrated football team — to testify against their teammates, no one else seems willing to come forward with information. Incriminating videos and photos were deleted from phones. It’s not hard to see why, judging from the treatment of the Times reporter covering the case.
Approached in November to be interviewed about the case, [Big Red football coach Reno] Saccoccia said he did not “do the Internet,” so he had not seen the comments and photographs posted online from that night. When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.
“You made me mad now,” he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.
Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”
The coach is so beloved the town didn’t even wait for him to die to name the football field after him.