Saturday, March 23, 2013

ABC 20-20 looks at legal subtleties of Steubernville case

On Friday, March 22, 2013, ABC 20-20 aired a report “Steubenville: After the Party Is Over”. 
The basic incident occurred in August, 2012, and is summarized on Wikipedia here. Ironically, I visited the city on November 11, 2012 (my motel was in Weirton, W Va).  I had not paid any attention to the case at that point and was in the area to look at the fracking issue.

The 20-20 report stressed the digital detective work, since so much of the incident wound up on social media.  It’s pretty easy to determine who transmitted what from cell phone numbers and possibly IP addresses. 

The report also stressed the legal ambiguities of the case.  “Jane Doe”, 16, as indeed touched or manipulated inappropriately while she was intoxicated, and apparently that met the Ohio definition of rape.  But what is more critical is whether transmission of the incident in social media was a crime, or, even more pertinently, whether other kids or parents had a legal duty to report the incident under Ohio law.  My COPA blog entry on Jan. 5, 2013 takes up some of those questions.

It still is rather shocking that teenagers thought that it was funny to post this on social media, and that idea of “power” and demanding submission or humiliation seems so important to the teen brain. 

The age of consent in Ohio is 16 (according to Wikipedia), so statutory rape charges wouldn’t occur as they would in other states like California or Virginia, where it is 18. However, other states may have other different ways of interpreting the events here. 


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