The FBI is investigating cyber threats against officials in Steubenville, Ohio, where tension is growing as a result of a rape case involving a 16-year-old girl.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla was notified Wednesday by the Ohio Division of Public Safety that people using false names on Facebook were threatening his family on the social media site. The Steubenville police chief also was targeted when an email he opened from an unknown sender disabled his computer.
"They said they were going to murder my family and rape my daughters," Sheriff Abdalla said Wednesday.
He would not say whether he was taking extra safety precautions with his family.
"You have crackpots out there that do stupid things."
Police Chief Bill McCafferty said he opened an email from someone claiming to be an estranged member of Anonymous, a collection of vigilante hackers that propelled the rape case to the national stage by accusing officials of suppressing information and by disseminating pictures, videos, documents and their own take on the case online. The sender said he had information on "KY," a member of Anonymous.
The chief said he didn't click on anything and closed the email but discovered later that it had rendered his computer unusable.
Despite little involvement in the case, the sheriff has been outspoken in his defense of Steubenville police actions to bring the girl's alleged attackers to justice. The chief has been more tight-lipped, citing the ongoing investigation and saying the Feb. 13 trial of two juvenile suspects will show that police did their job.
"I'm sure it will all be cleared up when the case is over, but we have to endure this now," Chief McCafferty said of the threats.
Both men said the FBI was notified Wednesday of the online threats, which are among a series aimed at the town since the alleged rape Aug. 12 of the 16-year-old West Virginia girl. FBI spokesman Tom Lindgren said agency policy was not to confirm or deny the FBI's involvement in the investigation.
The U.S. Justice Department has said that it, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI are monitoring the rape case and assisting local and state investigators.
Two Steubenville High School football players, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, both 16, were arrested Aug. 22.
City schools went on lockdown Tuesday after receiving an anonymous threat against a building. City and county websites have been shut down to prevent them from being hacked.
"We have a lot of unusual traffic coming to our server," Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison said. "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 unplugged most of the week and the county site typically goes offline after business hours. City workers have been briefed on ways to handle fraudulent emails.
Taryn Luna: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1985.