(TheBlaze/AP) -- Authorities investigating rape accusations against two high school football players in eastern Ohio launched a website Saturday as interest in the case balloons, a step designed to combat the misconception "that the football team runs the city," the city manager said.
Two 16-year-old boys are set for trial next month in juvenile court in Steubenville, a town of about 18,000, on charges that they raped a 16-year-old girl in August. Their attorneys have denied the charges in court, but public interest in the case exploded with the online circulation this week of a roughly 12-minute video purportedly showing another young man "joking" about the accuser.
Among other comments, the boys can repeatedly be heard joking about how the girl-- who seems to be passed out-- is "dead."
“They peed on her. That’s how you know she’s dead, because someone pissed on her,” he says, later adding that she was raped "quicker than Mike Tyson raped that one girl."
Here is the entire video (warning: extremely disturbing and graphic):
The video was reportedly released by hackers who allege that more people were involved and should be held accountable.
One aim of the website, City Manager Cathy Davison said, is to combat a common perception that Steubenville High School - home of the "Big Red" sports program - controls politics in a small city where special prosecutors and a visiting judge are handling the case because local authorities knew people involved with the football team.
"When people are saying that our police department did not follow procedure, that the football team runs the city, that is not the case," Davison said. "They went by the book. Everything was handled in an above-board fashion to make sure that the case can benefit from the fullest extent of the law."
People protest at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. (Photo: AP)
According to Reuters, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla is under particularly heavy fire, having to respond to an impromptu "Occupy Steubenville" Saturday.
"I'm not going to stand here and try to convince you that I'm not the bad guy," he said, as the crowd reportedly booed. "You've already made your minds up."
He also weighed in on the video, which he said he first saw three days ago.
"It's a disgusting video," he remarked. "It's stupidity. But you can't arrest somebody for being stupid."
Here is raw video of the sheriff's remarks, via The Atlantic:
Intended to sort fact from fiction, the Steubenville website has the appearance of a legal briefing, with black type on a white background, providing an intentional departure from escalating emotions over the case and how it's been handled. It provides a timeline of the case, summaries of Ohio laws that affect sex charges, online posts and reaction to them and a pledge of transparency.
"It looks very generic, but it was meant to be (that way), because it's just the facts. There's nothing flowery about it," said Davison.
The site-- hoping to reiterate that police are not more loyal to high school football than to the law-- explains that only a handful of police officers attended local schools, and that the city manager herself is not even from Ohio. Its launch followed the hiring of a consultant who is helping the city handle a barrage of media attention sparked by the case.
It was sponsored by both the city and police officials.
(Photo: Steubenville Facts)
But the site specifically declares it "is not designed to be a forum for how the Juvenile Court ought to rule in this matter."
Steubenville sits in a region of the state that's benefited economically from a recent shale gas drilling boom, and Steubenville got a boost when it was selected as the site of Gov. John Kasich's 2012 State of the State address, the first held outside the Statehouse in recent memory.
"Steubenville is a fantastic place to live, work and play," said Davison. "We have warm and loving people here, and this incident could be anywhere in America or the country or the world, and it's really unfortunate that it's tarnishing the city's reputation."
As investigation continues, it has spurred heated commentary online. Some support the defendants and question the character of the teenage girl, while others allege a cover-up or contend more people should be charged.
The latter group includes hacker-activists associating under the Anonymous and KnightSec labels, who point to comments they say were posted around the time of the alleged attack on social media by people who are not charged.
Click here to be redirected to the "Steubenville Facts" website.