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Audrie Pott: Reserve judgment, lawyers of assault suspects caution

April 13, 2013|By Kate Mather
  • Audrie Pott
Audrie Pott (AP )

The attorneys for the teenagers accused of sexually assaulting Audrie Pott, the Saratoga High School sophomore who later committed suicide, is urging the public to reserve judgment and said the boys should be "regarded as innocent."

Authorities this week alleged that Pott, 15, was assaulted last fall by the three boys, one of whom snapped a picture of the alleged attack.

The photo quickly circulated among Pott’s classmates. The teen wrote on her Facebook page that it was the “worst day ever,” according to her family’s attorney, Robert Allard. “The whole school knows,” she wrote. “My life is like ruined now.”

A week after the alleged attack Pott hanged herself, authorites told Northern California media organizations.

The suspects' three attorneys -- Eric S. Geffon, Alan M. Lagod and Benjamin W. Williams -- said in their statement thar there has been much inaccurate reporting in the case.

"Much of what has been reported over the last several days is inaccurate. Most disturbing is the attempt to link [Audrie's] suicide to the specific actions of these three boys," the statement reads.

None of the boys had ever been in trouble with the law before, the statement said, closing, "Due to the juvenile nature of the proceedings, we believe it inappropriate to comment further at this time."

The boys were arrested Thursday after an investigation that lasted several months.

Allard said the news “brought out new emotions” from Pott’s family, but they were happy the arrests had been made.

“They’ve lost their baby girl,” Allard said. “But they are relieved to know that after several months of these boys living their lives as though nothing had happened … finally justice is being served.”

Allard, the attorney for the Pott family, said his clients are pushing for “Audrie’s Law,” which would stiffen penalties for cyberbullying and strengthen laws on sexual assault by trying adolescents as adults.

“Her parents really want something positive to come from something like this,” he said.

The family hopes the suspects, who are expected to appear in court next week, will be treated as adults as they move through the legal system, Allard said. They also believe the boys tried to conceal or destroy evidence -- “basically by pressing the delete button,” he said.

“They were certainly aware enough and mature enough to carry out something as elaborate as this, and they should be punished accordingly,” the attorney said.

Allard acknowledged that Pott and her friends had been drinking the night she was allegedly attacked. The parents of the teen whose home they were partying in were out of town for the weekend, he said, and the group got into a liquor cabinet. They mixed alcohol with Gatorade, he said, and “word spread there was a party.”

Pott had gone upstairs early to go to sleep, Allard said. When she woke up the next day, she “recognized immediately that something terrible had happened.”

Her parents “knew nothing about this,” he said, until after her death. Allard said that, based on conversations with her friends, Pott had indicated that “she didn’t think that she could take it” after the photo circulated.

One of her friends even asked that she not “do anything stupid,” Allard said.

“Obviously she was tormented,” he said. “They had spread the word as to what happened, circulated at least one photograph of what happened during the assault, and she was tortured by cyberbullying.”

The incident is one of several incidents involving alleged assaults and cyberbulling that has attracted headlines in recent months. Last month, two Ohio high school football stars were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl. A photo was circulated showing the girl naked and unconscious.

In Canada, a woman said her 17-year-old daughter hanged herself last week, more than a year after she was allegedly sexually assaulted at a house party. In a lengthy Facebook message, Leah Parsons alleged that her daughter was bullied and had become depressed after a photo of the alleged assault went viral at her high school.

Police investigated that incident, but no charges were filed. Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry this week asked government officials whether it would be possible to review the case.

The arrests this week left residents in Saratoga, an upscale suburb in Silicon Valley, stunned.

In a statement Friday, the superintendent of the school district attended by Pott and two of the suspects said the district was cooperating with the ongoing investigation. Supt. Bob Mistele said officials would “continue to work diligently to maintain a positive climate at our high schools based on respect, responsibility and open communication that discourages cyberbullying and inappropriate conduct.”

“Our sympathies go out to all of the families involved,” he said.

A biography posted on the Audrie Pott Foundation website noted that Pott’s loved ones hoped her death could be an “catalyst for change and someday she will be proud of all she was able to accomplish in life and death.”

“She was in the process of developing the ability to cope with the cruelty of this world, but had not quite figured it all out,” the biography read. “Ultimately, she had not yet acquired the antibiotics to deal with the challenges present for teens in today’s society.”

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kate.mather@latimes.com

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