A computer hacker has admitted helping a Winchester resident known online as “KYAnonymous” compromise a website and get involved in the controversy surrounding a notorious rape case in Steubenville, Ohio.
Noah McHugh, of Alexandria, Va., pleaded guilty in federal court in Lexington to one charge of accessing a computer without authorization.
The crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, according to a court record.
McHugh’s case is related to the pending federal charges against Deric Lostutter, who lived in Winchester in December 2012 when he allegedly took part in hacking into the computer of a man who ran a fan website for Steubenville High School athletics.
A few months earlier, two Steubenville High football players had been charged with raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl.
The case drew national attention in part for the role social media played in calling attention to the assault and the investigation.
Other teens shared comments and photos of the girl online, including one showing her naked and passed out, according to the New York Times.
The girl didn’t remember what happened, but text messages and cellphone photos documenting what happened became evidence against the two players, who were convicted, the Times reported.
Lostutter told the online site Gawker in 2013 that he was angry over the girl’s victimization and felt others — such as teens who had witnessed the crime and not reported it — should be held accountable.
However, the method he used to try to increase attention to the case violated federal law, a grand jury charged.
Lostutter, using the online identity KYAnonymous, and McHugh, using the identity JustBatCat, agreed to hack into the Steubenville High fan site, according to court documents.
The object of the scheme was to get access to the email account of the person who ran the site, to “harass and intimidate” him and to gain attention for the online identities of Lostutter and McHugh, the grand jury charged.
McHugh admitted in his plea agreement he created an account using a virtual private networking service to maintain his anonymity.
While exchanging messages with Lostutter, McHugh used online resources to find the name, email address and zip code of the administrator of the fan site, then used the information to guess the answer to the security question on the person’s email account, his plea agreement said.
McHugh reset the administrator’s password and accessed his account, and he and Lostutter read the emails.
Lostutter then sent McHugh an email with a link to a video, a written statement, and link to download the private emails of the administrator of the fan site, which included nude photos, McHugh’s plea agreement said.
McHugh posted the materials on the site at Lostutter’s direction, according to the plea document.
The separate federal indictment against Lostutter alleged that he made threats that he would disclose personal information on Steubenville High students and falsely claimed that the administrator of the fan site directed a “rape crew.”
The day after posting the video, McHugh redirected the fan site to a different internet host outside the country to keep the administrator from regaining control of it.
Prosecutors charged McHugh through an instrument called an information, rather than presenting evidence to a grand jury to seek an indictment, and he pleaded guilty during his first court appearance.
That can mean a defendant has worked out an agreement to help prosecutors.
McHugh’s attorney did not return a message seeking comment Friday.
Lostutter, whose Facebook page said he lived in North Carolina when he was indicted in July, is scheduled to be arraigned this month.
U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves set a sentencing date for McHugh in December.