Attorney Jason Flores-Williams said that his Whistleblower Defense League will seek to dissuade federal attorneys from indicting Deric Lostutter, 26, of Winchester, Kentucky.
Flores-Williams said his client, who is being represented pro-bono by the attorney’s organization, is being targeted for speaking out about the infamous rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, where football players were accused of raping a drunken girl.
He said the April raid on Lostutter’s home by heavily-armed agents in riot gear was “absolutely insane” and speaks to the fear the government has over those who use the internet for activism.
“They sent an armed squadron into his home to seize all of his property,” Flores-Williams said. “I have to think that those resources could have been better spent.”
The attorney said the Whistleblower Defense League, which he founded about three months ago, is a group of 25 criminal defense attorneys from across the country who volunteer their time to defend, he says, “anyone who speaks for open democracy.”
Flores-Williams said his group is especially concerned with protecting whistle-blowers, journalists, bloggers and similar-minded people from legal threats from the U.S. government.
Flores-Williams said he was inspired to start the group as he followed the ongoing legal saga of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, whose court martial, for allegedly leaking thousands of diplomatic documents as well as videos of air strikes which killed civilians, is now underway. Following Manning’s story as well as outlets such as WikiLeaks, which publicized the documents, made Flores-Williams conclude that “everyone has a right to investigate their government” and that people willing to do so need legal protection.
“(These people) are willing to put their lives on the line to maintain a democracy,” Flores-Williams said.
The attorney said his organization has been trying to reach out to Edward Snowden, a contractor who recently leaked to the Guardian newspaper information about a vast National Security Agency domestic surveillance program on millions of private telephone calls and online communications. Flores-Williams would not say whether he’s been in contact with Snowden.
The organization raises money to cover its expenses through donations linked through their website WhistleBlowerDefenseLeague.com. Lostutter’s defense fund has raised $44,629 as of Thursday. The money pays for attorneys’ travel fees, fees for expert witnesses, document transcription costs and, potentially, security for the legal team should they be required to stay in Steubenville for an extended period of time.
Lostutter identifies himself on his web site as KYAnonymous, a member of the KnightSec group within the Anonymous hacker-activist collective. Lostutter states his home was raided by M16-wielding FBI agents who were investigating any link he could have to the hacking of RollRedRoll.com.
That website, according to the New York Times, is a fan page for the Steubenville High School Big Red football team in Ohio. Steubenville made national headlines last year after a 16-year-old girl was raped at parties following a football scrimmage in August.
Two players from that team, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were found guilty of raping the girl and were sentenced to time in juvenile detention facilities.
Social media, such as a web image of the girl being carried by her wrists and ankles by two people, played a role in the case and spurred public outrage at denigrating online comments made about the victim, at blogger allegations that others besides the two convicted were involved, and that school officials tried to cover up the incident initially to protect the football team.
In December RollRedRoll.com was hacked, with Anonymous claiming responsibility, according to the New York Times. A video posted to the website showed someone, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask typically worn by Anonymous activists and using a computer-modulated voice, who threatened to release the names, Social Security numbers and addresses of people involved unless those people apologized to the girl and her family.
“You have attracted the attention of the hive,” the person in the video states.
Another member of Anonymous, not Lostutter, took responsibility for getting control of the website by guessing the administrator’s password security question, according to Steubenville’s Herald Star newspaper. That man named KYAnonymous as the person who approached him about getting involved.
That article states that KYAnonymous took credit for organizing protests regarding the case.
Lostutter states on his website that, on that day of the federal raid in April, he initially saw a truck parked in his driveway. When he went outside to investigate, about 12 armed FBI SWAT agents jumped out of the truck and screamed for him to “get the (expletive) down.” He states he was threatened with additional criminal charges if he were to tell anyone about the raid.
A copy of the federal warrant served on Lostutter’s home states agents were seeking, among other things, records or information relating to a conspiracy to hack the website and the email of the site’s administrator.
FBI spokesman for the Cincinnati region, Todd Lindgren, had nothing to say regarding the investigation, and he would not respond to Lostutter’s allegations that the FBI used assault weapons to serve a warrant on someone being investigated for a computer crime.
“I’m not aware of the incident you’re speaking of directly,” Lindgren said. “I have no knowledge of it.”
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Columbus did not return a call seeking comment.
Flores-Williams said the FBI could have just called his client, and he accused the government of sending the SWAT team to serve the warrant in an effort to intimidate whistle-blowers. Flores-Williams described his client as a regular guy who’s into computers and DJ-ing.
“He’s a total Santa Fe dude,” Flores-Williams said.
Lostutter’s site contains an apology to RollRedRoll.com’s site administrator. The Anonymous video on YouTube contains an allegation that hackers uncovered nude photographs of people who were possibly underage. Lostutter states that an agent has since told him that the girls were all over 18. Lostutter said the same person who hacked the website who uncovered the photographs.
The site’s administrator did not return messages seeking comment.