FBI investigating threats against Ohio sheriff in case of Steubenville alleged rape

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The FBI is looking into death threats made against a Jefferson County official's family and an email attack that disabled the Steubenville police chief's computer.

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said he was notified by the Ohio Attorney General's office Wednesday that anonymous Facebook posts were making threats against his family.

"They said they were going to murder my family and rape my daughters," he said.

The sheriff declined to comment on whether he was taking the threats seriously or making extra efforts to ensure his family's safety.

Mr. Abdalla has been outspoken in defense of police actions in relation to a controversial alleged rape case of a 16-year-old West Virginian teen.

Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, both 16, were arrested Aug. 22 and charged as juveniles in the attack.

The sheriff said his only involvement in the case was to confiscate three cell phones from the suspects and another individual. One of the phones contained a picture of the victim naked.

The rape garnered national attention when a group of hackers called Anonymous provided photos taken the night of the attack, a video of a young man joking about the rape and other documents to the blog LocalLeaks. The group has been joined by hundreds who have protested in demand of a more thorough investigation and want additional charges filed.

But more recently the group, or copycats, have been suspected of hacking the email and social media accounts of those involved in the case.

Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty said he opened an email from someone claiming to be an estranged member of Anonymous that had information on its leader. He didn't click on anything and closed the email, but later discovered that it rendered his computer unusable.

The email was contained before it was able to take down all of the police department's computers.

Both the City of Steubenville and Jefferson County have periodically disabled their websites to prevent attacks by hackers.

"We have a lot of unusual traffic coming to our server," said Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison. "Instead of opening ourselves up to cyber hackers we decided to take it down and look at our options."

She said the city site has been down most of the week and the county site typically goes off-line after business hours. City staff have been briefed on ways to handle fraudulent emails.

Both Chief McCafferty and Sheriff Abdalla notified the FBI about the hacking and threat incidents.

The U.S. Justice Department has said it is monitoring the case and assisted local and state investigators with the help of the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Civil Rights Division and the FBI.

FBI spokesman Tom Lindgren said he could not confirm or deny the FBI's involvement in the case.

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