Protesters want man jailed
NEW CUMBERLAND – About 20 members of the hackivist group Anonymous and their supporters gathered Saturday on the steps of the Hancock County Courthouse to protest the handling of a man awaiting further proceedings in the alleged rape of a 2-year-old.
However, the suspect, Tyler M. Graham, 19, of Weirton, who was arrested for the alleged rape in December, is currently on house arrest, monitored wearing an ankle bracelet and hasn’t broken any of the conditions of his house arrest, according to Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher.
Graham was indicted by a Hancock County grand jury in April and faces charges of sexual assault by a custodian, sexual assault in the first degree and child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. The alleged incident was reported to have taken place while Graham was staying at the girl’s mother’s residence in December, according to prosecutors.
Weirton Police began an investigation Feb. 8 when they were called to Weirton Medical Center on a report of possible sexual assault of a child. Reports indicated the child had contracted a sexually transmitted disease and required surgery.
A rally was held in April led by Anonymous after Graham was released on a $50,000 bond following initial hearings in Hancock County Magistrate Court. However, Graham currently is on house arrest and can’t leave the premises unless granted permission, according to Fletcher.
Still, members of Anonymous Saturday said they believed Graham should be in jail while also protesting the nature of the alleged crime.
One member, who called himself Anonymosphere, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and carrying a bullhorn, said the group wanted to keep attention on the case.
“We’ve heard rumors that (Graham) was out on the street,” he said. “The mother and child are out of the area at this point. He’s on house arrest. He’s not out on the street. But this still is bringing awareness to the case.”
Anonymosphere said the nature of the crime was more than enough reason to keep it in the public eye.
“Everybody’s tired of these (assaults),” he said. “You have to stand up. You have to say something. America itself has an attraction to violence. It’s really not good at all.
“I have nephews and nieces that age, and it makes you sick,” he continued.
Fletcher said the rumors Graham was “out on the streets” were completely untrue.
“He’s out on bond, as I understand it,” he said. “Part of that is him being monitored. These rumors he’s jumped bail and is on the run are false.”
Fletcher said he was in contact with the overseer of Graham’s house arrest as recently as Friday, and Graham still is being monitored and following the rules of the court.
“He’s permitted to go to some places with permission, such as to court,” Fletcher continued, adding no trial date has yet been set. “It’s possible a trial date could be set in September.”
The sheriff also said the same Constitution that allowed the protesters to voice their opinions also applied to the defendant, although he said he understood protesters’ anger as well.
“Oh, the whole area was sickened by this crime,” he said. “That’s the reaction of all good people.”
Fletcher said some good could come out of the ordeal if it raises awareness about sexual assault and people become more educated on what the boundaries and definitions of sexual crimes are and how to prevent them.