Jefferson County, Ohio, Sheriff Fred Abdalla is now facing threats on his life and on the safety of his family after receiving an email that shut down his computer. It was the latest in a series of messages that have targeted people involved in the case of an alleged kidnapping and gang rape of a 16-year-old girl at the hands of two star football players at Steubenville High school.
Earlier this week, the Ohio high school was placed on lockdown after receiving word of a potential mass shooting, and Michael Nodianos, the "star" of a 12-minute cell phone video in which he and a group of friends compared the girl’s state to a corpse on the night of the reported rape, revealed he had to step away from his new school, Ohio State University, in fear of his safety.
Abdalla told reporters Wednesday he was working with the FBI to determine the source of a Facebook message that promised to kill him and his family, according to CBS. Abdalla has been a favorite target of the hacker collective Anonymous, which has revealed a number of details about the case, chief among them the suspicion that the sheriff has too close a relationship with “Big Red” football coach Reno Saccoccia to investigate the case without bias.
Last week the sheriff spoke at the “Occupy Steubenville” protest organized by Anonymous, which caught fire on social media. Abdalla told the angry crowd he had overseen more than 200 sexual assault arrests during his time in law enforcement, but dodged a question about his handling of football players. Abdalla was jeered as he left the podium after saying no further arrests would be made in the case.
During an earlier interview, Abdalla implied the Anonymous hackers were acting as terrorists and would be pursued by law enforcement for leaking disparaging information about the supposed coverup of the rape by Steubenville authorities.
He is not currently in charge of the investigation, which has been passed on to federal prosecutors in Ohio. The trial of the two accused football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, is set to begin in February. They will be charged as juveniles.
Michael Nodianos’ attorney Dennis McNamara, in a press conference before it was revealed that Abdalla’s safety was at risk, said Nodianos has been harassed for his participation in the infamous 12-minute video.
“Michael is the person on a video that was posted on several Internet sites last week and he made several very callous comments and is ashamed and embarrassed by the comments on the video,” McNamara said, while being careful to add that his client was not being charged with any crimes but his family was in need of a spokesman.
Nodianos was admitted to Ohio State University on a Land Grant Opportunity Scholarship but he declined to return for the spring semester because his email account and the accounts of his family members had been attacked.
“Someone hacked the Ohio State University email system,” McNamara said. “There were people making the rounds of Michael's dormitory at Ohio State. He was concerned if he continued taking classes it would have been an insurmountable distraction.”