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Kentucky teen outs assailants on Twitter; tougher penalty follows

September 14, 2012|By Rene Lynch

A Kentucky teenager who used Twitter to name two boys who sexually assaulted her -- even though a judge had ordered that the case not be discussed -- can now declare a measure of victory. On Friday, a judge handed down a harsher-than-expected punishment for the defendants.

The boys, who had sexually assaulted Savannah Dietrich last year, were sentenced to community service and sex offender treatment, according to the Associated Press. The teenage defendants, who used their cellphone cameras to document the attack, were also ordered to name anyone who saw the photos. Further, they can't try to have their criminal records wiped clean of the attack until after they've turned 21.

An earlier plea agreement would have automatically removed the case from the defendants' record when they turned 20, one of the many factors in the case that outraged the victim.

Dietrich defended her use of Twitter during a court hearing on Friday. "I was in so much pain, death seemed like a friendly thought to me," she said, according to AP.

Normally, the media does not name underage defendants and rarely, if ever, identifies a rape victim of any age. But Dietrich, 17, has refused to play by often-unspoken rules that critics say protect assailants and add to an air of shame surrounding sexual assault.

Dietrich says she has no problem talking openly to the media about the assault and her Twitter calls for justice because she's done nothing wrong. She will be on Anderson Cooper's CNN show tonight.

Dietrich caused an Internet sensation earlier this year when she violated a court order and Tweeted the names of her teenage assailants and her outrage that they were being given what she considered a relatively lax punishment.

The defendants were 16-year-olds in August 2011 when they joined Dietrich and friends for a night of underage drinking. At one point, Dietrich lay unconscious on the kitchen floor in a Louisville, Ky., home.

The boys admitted the assault, according to court transcripts, with one of them describing a particular act as "funny," according to CNN.

Dietrich and her parents say they were caught off guard by a plea agreement reached without their consent.

Finally, an outraged Dietrich turned to Twitter, even though a judge had ordered all parties not to discuss the case.

During Friday's hearing, she also turned on the defendants to let them know the depth of her pain, according to local TV station WDRB. The news outlet quoted her as saying:

"You should know sexually assaulting an unconscious victim, taking a picture of it and disseminating it is wrong. My conclusion is: You knew it was wrong, but did you care? No. Instead you violated me, and both of you said it was funny. Tell me, who thought it was funny? Who laughed at you? Who thought it was so funny, and why didn't anyone tell me about the joke?"

After the hearing, Dietrich said she was satisfied with Friday's sentencing but doubts her attackers truly appreciate the damage their actions caused.

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+ or Twitter. Email:rene.lynch@latimes.com.

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