On Saturday night, three people were arrested in Scottsdale, Ariz. after peaceful protests over the Ferguson grand jury decision organized by online hacker group Anonymous ended badly. One man was arrested for breaking a window, while two others unconnected to the protests were arrested for disorderly conduct and assault after attacking the mask-wearing demonstrators.
But while reporting on the story, local media initially missed a bigger one: the two men who attacked Anonymous outside the Wasted Grain bar, Samuel Lee Busic and Matthew Michael Belardine, are connected to the Steubenville rape case. The latter was a defendant.
A quick Google search would have revealed that Belardine was a Steubenville High School volunteer football coach and sole adult present at the party that preceded the rape of a 16 year-old girl by two players on the team. Belardine (who is at least 26 years old) didn't rape anyone. But he lied to the police about the exact time he arrived at his home on August 11, 2012 to find a full-blown underage rager in progress, apparently motivated by a desire to deflect responsibility for the horrible rape that happened afterwards. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, 40 hours of community service and a $1,000 fine.
Belardine has good reason to be angry at Anonymous specifically. For one, he might not have had to deal with the authorities at all had Anonymous not exposed a conspiracy to cover up the rape. But Anonymous also doxxed Belardine, apparently also claiming that he was the person who threw the party or that he was supplying alcohol (neither is true). While the damage to his reputation was immense, he did allow the drinking to continue, thus making him part of the chain of events that resulted in a 16-year-old Weirtown girl being raped while too drunk to consent. Lying to the police implicated him as part of the cover-up.
I was tipped off to the connection by an activist friend who linked me to local blog Down and Drought. In a video posted to the site, Busic can be clearly heard screaming "Fuck Anonymous!" while repeatedly challenging the protesters to a fight. In fairness, Busic appears to have begun the situation and Belardine is at first clearly trying to reign in his out-of-control friend. But by around 2:40, Belardine has already thrown some punches and Busic is the one restraining him:
It looks like Busic dragged Belardine into attempting to get some revenge on Anonymous for its relentless campaign of mob justice, which is just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Seeking retribution on an online collective of thousands of faceless libertarian-anarchist activists and script kiddies by trying to punch a random few of them in the face isn't just a great way to get an assault charge on your record, it's the equivalent of trying to destroy a hornet's nest by repeatedly headbutting it. Now they're probably both going to get targeted again, and Belardine may face a review of his probation. Great job, geniuses.
Here's what Belardine told the court during his time in the spotlight:
"It's very unfortunate the events that transpired that night, you know, with the girl and everything," Belardine said in court. He said he believed he made "the right decisions," but "I didn't make the decisions quick enough."
He said he learned "a very good lesson -- that no matter what, you should always tell the truth."
Apparently he didn't actually learn anything about responsibility, because responsible people don't assault protesters.
Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident. In a recent profile for Salon, Emma Goldberg reported that after the controversy faded and the news cameras left, basically nothing changed for the better in Steubenville. There was no anti-rape education, no bystander intervention program and the code of silence that surrounded the allegations was if anything more resilient.
Steubenville didn't learn its lesson, either.