NEW CUMBERLAND - The social media activist group Anonymous is organizing a vigil on Saturday to protest the fact that a man accused of sexually abusing a young girl was released on bond last week.
The protest rally, scheduled for noon-3 p.m. Saturday in front of the Hancock County Courthouse, will include testimonies by victims of sexual abuse and remarks by other "concerned citizens," said Adam Rahuba, a publicist for Anonymous.
But the main focus of the vigil will be to ask why Tyler M. Graham, 19, of Weirton, was released on a $50,000 property and surety bond after being charged with the rape of a 2-year-old girl.
"In a case like this ... that's way too low," Rahuba said. "It's ridiculous."
Protesters are being asked to bring signs showing a large question mark. "We want to know why. Why was Tyler Graham allowed to post bail for such a heinous accusation?" an Anonymous news release said.
Graham was charged Feb. 19 with one count of sexual abuse by a parent or person in trust of a child, which is a felony. He is accused of raping the toddler while staying at her mother's house in December, according to Hancock County Magistrate Court records.
Weirton police began investigating the case on Feb. 8, when they responded to Weirton Medical Center on a report of possible sexual assault involving a child. The girl's mother had taken her to the hospital after treating her for diaper rash, according to a police report filed in Magistrate Court.
The report said the toddler had contracted a sexually-transmitted disease and required surgery.
The charge filed against Graham prohibits "sexual intercourse, sexual intrusion or sexual contact" with a child under 16 by the child's parent or guardian. The charge carries a prison sentence of five to 15 years and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.
Graham appeared before Hancock County Magistrate Michael Powell on Feb. 19 and was released on a $50,000 bond - $25,000 surety and $25,000 property. He is scheduled for another appearance at 9 a.m. Friday.
Powell ordered Graham not to have contact with the mother, the girl or any witnesses. He also is not to leave the tri-state area.
Rahuba said Saturday's protest will be peaceful, with about 350 people saying on the group's Facebook page that they are coming.
"We want it to be known that protesters, including those who remain Anonymous, will not be arriving to cause a disturbance," the news release said. "We are simply there to be a voice for the little Jane Doe who cannot speak for herself.
"Secondly, we are there to support all persons who face abuse, whether it be physical, emotional or sexual - online or in 'real life.' In a civilized society, this cannot be allowed to stand," the release said.
Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher confirmed that he was contacted by the group about the rally and suggested that it be held on the steps of the old courthouse building.
The group Anonymous is known for organizing protests in the wake of the much-publicized Steubenville rape case - in which two Steubenville High School football players were charged in connection with the rape of a 16-year-old Weirton girl last August.