NEW CUMBERLAND - A rally organized by members of the protest network Anonymous drew approximately 60 people to the steps of the Hancock County Courthouse in New Cumberland on Saturday afternoon.
The action, titled "Operation Innocence," was called to protest the release from jail of Tyler M. Graham, 19, of Weirton, who had been charged on Feb. 19 with the alleged rape of a 2-year-old "Jane Doe" while staying at the Weirton home of the child's mother in December of last year.
A $50,000 property bond secured Graham's release following an appearance before Hancock County Magistrate Michael Powell.
Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher (right) speaks with the leader of a rally sponsored by the Anonymous protest network outside the Hancock County Courthouse in New Cumberland on Saturday afternoon.
While the focus of the rally was the young victim of this assault, which has resulted in her contracting a sexually-transmitted disease, others spoke out regarding their own experiences with what they described as a similar lack of justice.
One of them was a Hancock County resident who, like many in the crowd, wore the Guy Fawkes mask which has become a hallmark of Anonymous events. He talked about the abuse suffered by his 4-year-old daughter in 2011.
She sustained injuries so severe that four surgeries at UPMC Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh were required to repair the hole torn in her stomach. Despite this, he says the accused, the boyfriend of the child's mother, was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation.
"It's just a major injustice against our children that is happening in Hancock County, Jefferson County, Steubenville," another attendee said. "It's in our valley. It's everywhere."
Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher was present for the protest and had positive comments toward the organizers of the event.
"I see this as a positive move because they're trying to educate the public," he said. Fletcher said he understood the reasons why many victims of sexual abuse may refuse to come forward, including shame, fear or misplaced guilt.
While Fletcher did not speak at the event, he drew huge applause from the crowd when he stated there is no statute of limitations for sexual assault in West Virginia.