On Saturday, 1,000 or so people gathered outside the Jefferson County courthouse demanding that local authorities investigate fully the alleged rape of a young woman by two Steubenville High School football players. In that way, what already had become a national story gained a larger profile, complete with protesters in Guy Fawkes masks, exclamation points on their claims of the powerful protecting the favored at the expense of justice for the victim.
A few days later, word arrived that the FBI had launched an investigation into threats made against the county sheriff and local authorities. A student who appeared in an appalling video making fun of the victim dropped out of Ohio State for the spring semester.
The point is worth stressing: Social and other forms of new media have been crucial in exposing the ugly behavior and advancing the case, two young men charged with rape, facing trial next month in juvenile court. At the same time, there has been an emerging dark side, the outrage verging into the unproductive mentality of a mob, justice at risk in another way.
If it makes sense to press authorities publicly, and to be furious that too few, if any, attending the end-of-summer party jumped forward to halt an assault on the drunken young woman, it also is important to avoid compounding the problems. The office of Mike DeWine, the state attorney general, now prosecuting the case, doesn’t need more complications in pursuing a fair and just result.