COLUMBUS, Ohio - A high school student and his family have dropped their lawsuit against a blogger and anonymous posters to her blog site in a case that arose from online comments about a rape investigation involving two high school football players.
At issue were suggestions in those comments that the student might have been involved in the incident but never charged.
As part of the settlement announced Thursday, the operator of the crime blog acknowledged that there was no evidence of his involvement in the rape, while the student, Cody Saltsman, apologized in a statement for tweets he sent the night of the alleged attack.
"At no time did my family mean to stop anyone from expressing themselves online," Saltsman said in a statement posted on the blog site prinnified.com. The family "only wanted to correct what we believed were misstatements."
Saltsman also acknowledged the work of the site's bloggers "to make sure the full truth about that terrible night eventually comes out."
The settlement is a victory for free speech, said Scott Greenwood, who represented for free the anonymous bloggers on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. Anonymous speech has long been protected in this country, he said, and it's important to preserve that right, especially when people are feeling intimidated about an issue they're commenting on.
"People shouldn't be sued for expressing outrage about, to be blunt, what's alleged to be a gang rape," Greenwood said.
The two players in Steubenville in eastern Ohio were charged in August with rape after a girl's parents reported a sexual assault to police.
Blogger Alexandria Goddard of prinnified.com said in a statement that no postings were retracted, no commentary will be restricted in the future and no money changed hands.
"We recognize that some things written here may have created the impression that Cody was involved in the alleged rape, and we wish to clarify that we have no evidence of any such involvement," Goddard, a former Steubenville area resident, said in a statement.
"This site was happy to provide a forum for locals in Steubenville to engage in important speech protected by the First Amendment, and will continue to do so," she added.
Goddard's attorneys said everyone benefits from the settlement.
"It's a win for free and anonymous speech - the right to comment and criticize without fear of retribution is fundamental to the workings of our liberal democracy," they said in a statement.
Saltsman's lawyers said the family was pleased by the settlement but declined further comment beyond Saltsman's remarks on the blog site.