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Lee Stranahan And The Steubenville Facts

An online activist has published evidence that blogger Lee Stranahan has lied about his contacts in Steubenville, adding fuel to many weeks of speculation that Big Red football team boosters paid for his time in Ohio, allowing him to finally obtain those dentures he has wanted for so long.

Lee Stranahan has a sordid personal history and a creepy attitude about rape. Recently, he has been reporting from Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school football players were found guilty Sunday of raping a 16 year-old girl. The bulk of Stranahan’s reporting from Steubenville has aimed at discrediting the work of online activists and bloggers who questioned the narrow scope of the criminal charges. Sunday’s announcement that a grand jury will investigate further charges would seem to vindicate their view, but of course Stranahan is unmoved. And maybe it’s not in his interests to change his mind.

Here is a slideshow explaining this new evidence (NSFW warning on one of the images, NSFL warning on the Nodianos video):

Stranahan accuses a host of reporters of journalistic malpractice, but in fact he appears to have been committing it himself. His phone’s GPS has placed him at the house of a volunteer football coach who he claims he has never met. At the very least, Stranahan has been unethical in his Steubenville reporting, but he may have actually crossed a bright line here into witness tampering.

Responsible law enforcement parties — or that grand jury — should now investigate Stranahan and his contacts in Steubenville. Stranahan’s reporting deserves scrutiny. For instance, he has only one source for quotes about Anonymous and LocalLeaks supposedly harassing the town of Steubenville and obstructing justice: assistant prosecutor Frank Bruzzese, who has been hosting Stranahan in Steubenville.

Bruzzese’s law firm partner is Jane Hanlin, mother of a football player and the assistant city prosecutor who received the victim’s complaint. Because her son is on the team, she had a clear conflict of interest and should have recused herself immediately. But Hanlin tried to dissuade Jane Doe from filing charges, and only recused herself from the case after seeing all the evidence. 

Another key point: the stepmother of Malik Richmond, who was found delinquent (guilty) on Sunday, also works for the same law firm as Bruzzese and Hanlin.

Bruzzese, who has publicly defended Hanlin, is rumored to have covered Stranahan’s travel expenses to Ohio from Texas. He is also believed to be the force behind the city’s “Steubenville Facts” website, which links to Stranahan’s “Exile” blog — as Bruzzese does on his Facebook page. In fact, it is the only external link on the Steubenville Facts website. Unconnected to Stranahan’s own website, and created as a temporary refuge during Stranahan’s own experience with hackers last year, it seems a rather obscure choice of content.

Bruzzese isn’t Stranahan’s only Twitter collaborator in Steubenville, either. Altogether, the sockpuppeting social media output from Steubenville reminds me of nothing so much as the online misconduct which blew up the US Attorney’s office in New Orleans in scandal last year. (Bruzzese had not responded to my inquiries at press time.)

Tammy Dixon, Bruzzese’s legal secretary, is on Twitter. So is Jeanne Newman, a Steubenville teacher who gave Stranahan personal information about a man who tried to get head coach Reno Saccoccia fired. Stranahan has also had help from the Twitter account @Judicious1_, which has offered Stranahan information to attack the credibility of other bloggers on the Steubenville story.

The @Judicious1_ account is rumored to belong to Angela Pattera. The account has denied being Angela, and on close examination the account appears to have more than one user — just like @ImaFrenchModel, another Twitter account that appears to be run by Angela and her sister Jenna Smarella. All of them tweet in support of Stranahan.

Angela is also the mother of Mark Cole, a team member who was in court last week pleading the Fifth Amendment before he was granted immunity in exchange for testimony. Through Stranahan’s blogging, Bruzzese blamed this turn on Anonymous, but that seems a specious argument given that Mark Cole was sitting in the car taking video of the victim as she was sexually assaulted in between rape parties.

And there were in fact rape parties as well as a rape crew. Stranahan denies this, of course. While he calls on everyone to examine “hookup culture” and teen drinking for answers to the rape of Jane Doe, during the trial Stranahan never failed to refer to her as “the accuser” instead of the victim. He still cannot bring himself to call Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond “guilty,” either. So he is not about to admit the rape crew existed, even though participants got caught because they openly bragged about their activities on Facebook and Twitter.

This Jane Doe was not the first victim of Big Red rape culture, either:

But another former Steubenville student, who is now in college, said it was the preference the community gave to athletes that kept her from making a formal report when she said her ex-boyfriend – a Big Red football player – sexually assaulted her several years ago.

“Everybody knew what happened to me, adults knew, kids knew,” she said. “They just closed their eyes and acted like it never happened. I felt alone. I just wanted one person to say this was wrong.”

[…] “I’m sure I’m not the only victim or survivor,” she said. “In a way, they are standing up for everyone who couldn’t do it for themselves.”

Here’s another example of the genre. Traci Lords has also said she was raped as a child living in Steubenville. Surely more lies, right? Stranahan seems to think so. He has gone beyond denying the existence of a rape problem in Steubenville to attacking anyone who blogs otherwise.

Take his absurd and strained ad hominem attacks on Alexandria Goddard, who was responsible for capturing much of the social media chatter that led to the trial and grand jury investigation. His attacks on her are as conspiratorial in tone as his nutty blogging about Brett Kimberlin. Stranahan has repeatedly tried to link Goddard, as well as Holly Briley of, to Anonymous.

Stranahan has a long history of trying to dox random Twitter users who give him butthurt, especially anons. Now he yearns to discover the user behind @KYanonymous as well as other anon accounts tweeting about Steubenville. In fact, Stranahan’s war with Anonymous colors his entire endeavor in Steubenville because he is carrying on with Andrew Breitbart’s final blogwars, one of which was aimed at the hacking collective.

On Sunday, Stranahan stuffed all of these antagonists into a tinfoil hatbox with Occupy Wall Street and the New York Times, declaring that everyone else in America has messed up the story from the beginning — while he alone has told the full truth:

The actual story, disturbing enough on its own was far less salacious than the Anonymous embellishments. Why did a  sexual assault that involved three drunken sixteen-year old in a small Ohio town became major news? The narrative that the media pushed is a mixture of an easy to explain premise: Friday Night Lights with rapists meets cultural Marxism, taking cues from academic radical feminism and just good old Red blooded hatred of the United States. Steubenville became a way to belittle middle-American values like ‘football culture’ and to promote the idea that America, distinct from the rest of the world,  foments ‘rape culture.’

That’s Stranahan writing at yesterday (no, I’m not linking). So who would pay him to peddle such drivel? Welcome to the opaque world of the Big Red Boosters. They are not a registered 501(c)3, and the organization has operated since 1941 without a trace of financial accountability while taking in thousands of dollars a year. Are they paying Stranahan to be their social media apologist? Or is Bruzzese, whose family reputedly earned a fortune in public corruption? Or is everyone with a child on the football team pretending to take his blogging class?

If he is not taking the money of Steubenville’s football parents, then how can Stranahan suddenly afford his long-desired chompers? It takes about four or five weeks, and thousands of dollars, to have dentures made and fitted. Stranahan got his dentures right on time, nearly five weeks after returning home from Steubenville. Coincidence?

These are questions worthy of interest from “real” journalists covering the Steubenville trial, especially with a grand jury convening. And no one should refer to Stranahan as a ‘journalist’ either, because it cheapens the name of the profession. ‘Media spokesman’ is a legitimate occupation, but only when the spokesman discloses their role. He belongs in an entirely different category.

If Stranahan is accepting money from anyone in Steubenville to be their town football team’s social media apologist — and that seems to be the case — then it is just one more episode in his long history of fraud. His benefactors should also understand that Stranahan has consistently been more destructive than helpful to his causes, and the backlash is already building.

This post was updated to clarify the identity of Jenna Smarella.

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