Fla. Bullying Case: Charge Dropped Against 1 Teen
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — One of two teenage girls charged with stalking a Florida classmate who complained of being bullied before her suicide no longer faces any criminal counts, her attorney said Wednesday.
Attorney Jose Baez said the State Attorney’s Office in Polk County had dropped the juvenile count of third-degree felony aggravated stalking against his client.
Baez demanded an apology from the Polk County sheriff who arrested the 12-year-old girl and then placed her name and mugshot before television cameras at a news conference last month.
Sheriff Grady Judd announced the arrests last month of the 12-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl. He said the two girls primarily were responsible for bullying Rebecca Sedwick, a 14-year-old girl who jumped to her death at an abandoned concrete plant in September.
“I found zero evidence having to do with my client that would rise to the level of a criminal act,” Baez said at a news conference outside his Orlando office.
Baez described his client as a “troubled young girl” who had been bullied herself, and he said it was “reckless” for Judd to have arrested his client.
At a news conference in Winter Haven on Wednesday just minutes after Baez’s news conference had ended, Judd said he didn’t regret anything he did. He said that he is happy with the outcome and that the girls will receive “the services they need.”
“Our goal is that these kids never bully anyone again, never torment anyone again,” Judd said.
Baez said his client hasn’t ruled out a lawsuit against the sheriff.
Brian Haas, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office in Polk County, said Florida law prevented him from commenting on juvenile cases.
At last month’s news conference announcing the arrests, Judd said the bullying began about a year ago after the 14-year-old girl started dating Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend. The older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at Crystal Lake Middle School in Lakeland, Fla. and told her “to drink bleach and die,” the sheriff said. She also persuaded the younger girl to bully Rebecca, even though they had been best friends, the sheriff said.
Though both teens had been identified by authorities, The Associated Press doesn’t generally name juveniles charged with crimes.
An attorney for the 14-year-old girl didn’t return an email and voicemail message.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)