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Sheriff says he would charge parents in cyberbullying case if he could

Sheriff says he would charge parents in cyberbullying case if he could

The other day, I posted the story about two middle school girls arrested after a bullied girl’s suicide.  The case of Rebecca Sedwick has been at the center of much media attention in recent days, sparking a good deal of debate on all sides of the issue, including some discussion here at Legal Insurrection.

Florida authorities are still investigating the case, but the sheriff has since said that he would charge the parents as well, if he could, according to ABC News.

Florida officials are still actively investigating the parents of a teenage girl accused of cyberbullying Rebecca Sedwick to suicide, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

“If I could, they would already be in jail,” Judd told ABC News Wednesday. “But I can tell you this, that we’re keeping our options open.”

The charge would be “contributing to the delinquency of a minor,” the sheriff said.

The boy who had dated both Sedwick and the 14 year old charged in the case has since spoken out, urging witnesses to tell someone if they’re being bullied or see bullying.

In an interview with FOX News, Sheriff Judd was very critical of the parents of the two young girls charged.  He reminds people following the case that the two were not charged with the death of Sedwick, they were charged over the alleged stalking.  (See video at

Some have criticized Judd for his handling of the case, suggesting that he may be overstepping in his role.


Tampa defense attorney Jeff Brown says Polk Sheriff Grady Judd is just that — a sheriff.

“He is just a sheriff. He is not a judge, he’s not a lawyer, he is not the state attorney’s office, he’s not representing these girls. So he is doing an awful lot of pre-judging, he’s bringing a lot of his side of the facts out there, and maybe these are the facts. But I don’t understand why he can’t let the system play out, why he can’t let the people who are the lawyers — not the sheriff — investigate the case, look into what’s going on here, and then have a judge decide what the appropriate penalty or sentence is, and see about the proper way to handle this in a courtroom.”

Brown said it seems that Judd wants to skip the court system.

“If find that very odd from someone who is sworn to uphold the law. He seems to just ignore skip the rest of the system and the court and try to do it all himself,” Brown said.

He added that we should not judge the two girls too quickly.

“Let’s let the system play out. There may be an appropriate time to make them the example of what went on. But now is not the time. Now is the time to find out what went on, and let the professionals, not Sheriff Judd, look into this.”

An article in the Washington Post highlights the division on the general issue of online bullying, noting that some have called it ‘uncharted territory.’

A decision by a Florida sheriff to arrest two girls, ages 12 and 14, on felony charges for bullying a classmate until she committed suicide has divided experts and reverberated far beyond the town where the tragic events unfolded.

Some experts said the arrests were a just response and will help draw attention to the problem of online bullying, a growing dynamic among the nation’s youth as more of them spend time on mobile gadgets. Others questioned the use of criminal charges and argued that the arrests will only prolong the pain in this case.

As I mentioned in my prior post, I don’t feel that I have enough of the details on both sides yet to fully form an opinion myself.  But I do think that the larger issue of how to handle cyberbullying is a difficult one to address and can bring with it many unintended consequences.

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think the word bullying need to be changed. Bullying sounds like kids tussling ..Better more descriptive words to be used with a more serious tone. such as perpetrators.conspirators, murderers . Parent’s who believe their thug kids are ” misunderstood angels” need to be labeled as unfit,an charged a co conspirators..JMO

Mandy, kudo’s for continuing to cover this in a thoughtful manner. I’ve had enough myself. Think I’ll just pray for the soul of Rebecca now.

BannedbytheGuardian | October 17, 2013 at 6:17 pm

A favourite trick of girls is to include a lesser girl in their special circle & then exclude her . This goes on from grade one . Thus the girl is kept trying to get back into their good graces. Translated to IPhones it means they keep receiving messages rather than just shut the incoming harassment off.
But they only target those who want to be in the inner circle.

Or It is like a girls fraternity where they pledge allegiances especially during that pro girl phase they go through before boys . ( hello. 13-15 year olds ) .This girl ( victim) has broken the bond & started ‘dating’. Girls see this as being impure & a plain old slut hence the retribution .

You can go gahgah but these are genetic & evolutionary ( now to iphone )social mechanisms .

Later it can develope with young men ( les dangereux Liasons) or Caitlin Hunt & her 27 year old girlfriend & their 14 year old ( willing) victim.

Growing up is hard – always was.

Does “contributing to the delinquency” apply in this case in some way?

I’m willing to give the Sheriff some credit for his hard work and experience dealing with many kinds of people. He and his department have been investigating and interviewing these people and those around them for months.

These teens are not nice people and their parents leave a lot to be desired in the responsibility and character department themselves.

Twenty years ago, my daughters went to a large Southern county high school and would not go into the bathrooms, especially in D Wing, because the other females were extreme bullies. Most days, they did not use the bathroom all day because it was just too dangerous. They also did not ride the school bus because of bullies.

Things are worse now. Violence, physical and verbal, amongst females is on the rise. Gangs of girls will beat another girl to death for her cell phone or tablet. Law enforcement know all this this.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Uncle Samuel. | October 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Yes Samuel girls operate in specific ways. Unfortunately they are way more sneaky than adults – especially the caring idiot types who run schools etc.

    Your daughters have used the best defence – to take oneself out of their arena.

    I wrote & deleted some references to t his being endemic in women’s team sports .when people complain that girls do not do sport – have they ever seen what goes on there? Change rooms cannot be avoided.

I want to know what depression meds, what psychopharmaceuticals the dead child was taking.

There’s your proximate cause for the suicide.

As the father of a very young adult daughter I remember well the bullying in middle and high school. A certain type of girl is usually targeted. They often have no father figure, self esteem problems from that negative and to be honest the prettier the girl the more they are targeted. Yes my own daughter is a real beauty that was targeted but with a dad at home and two older brothers she is a tough customer. Some of her friends were tormented too and had more difficulty. I think much of it is related to feminine jealousy and insecurity. Some grow out of it but many never do.

by all means lets give more power to the state, that always helps.
maybe teachers smacking a kid (spank/slap on hand not beat) like they used to would work instead.
theres a good reason I respected my teachers, they demanded I did. And the respect goes both ways and propagates.

Ah yes – self esteem for these young ladies! Horse sh!t! We have parents who are as out of control as their tweens! I thank the sheriff for calling out the parents who are not doing their job. Parenting begins at day one and instead of teaching children right from wrong – they want them to have “self esteem” which is iksnay for we just want them to be popular with their peers. Schools can help with the bullying but when you have parents making excuses for these cretins instead of instilling values in them it is an up hill battle. I think more parents should be hauled before a judge and be forced to look in the mirror at the problems that besiege our youth. Throw them in clink and make the other non-responsive, idiot parents wake up and do their jobs.

Bullies target those they perceive as weak or vulnerable.

To stop a bully, you (your child) need(s) to accomplish:

#1- Make it clear to the bully that you don’t give a shit.
#2- Make it clear to the bully that you are not afraid of him/her.

Proving #2 will sometimes require to fight, win or lose, but just to prove there’s no fear. I learned that as a teenager.
Of course, with today’s zero tolerance policies your child will surely get in trouble, but I’ll take that any day.

    MarkS in reply to Exiliado. | October 18, 2013 at 7:31 am

    For every problem there is a solution and yours is the correct one. My daughter was being bullied by a group of girls and to my delight it ended when one of the bullies shrieked “ouch stop that”. That group of girls never approached daughter again

By the way, those “zero tolerance” policies in schools do very little to deter bullying. It’s more like the opposite. Many of the bullies don’t care if they get in trouble.
Heck! Getting in trouble means getting attention, or adding “cred” points.

Good kids, on the other hand, try to avoid getting in trouble, which makes them vulnerable.

It’s a little concerning that the names and photos of the 12-year-old and 14-year-old alleged bullies have been plastered all over the place, and they’ve been basically found guilty of all manner of heinous crimes (assault, murder) in the court of public opinion. Some of the horrific things I’ve seen written about these two girls, by actual adults, would probably meet the definition of “bullying” itself. What if (God forbid) the 12-year-old kills herself? Will all those who harassed her be guilty of murder themselves?

I just find it hard to believe that there wasn’t a better way to deal with this. If there had been actual physical assault (and though there are allegations, there obviously isn’t any actual evidence or the sheriff would have charged them with that instead of “stalking”), that might be different, but as it is now, the lives of the girls are ruined forever now, no matter what happens, because their names and photos are out there. Absolutely, they need to face some consequences for their “cyber-bullying”, and they can’t be allowed to continue doing it, but this all just seems a little extreme to me.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Amy in FL. | October 17, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    There is a case in WV where 2 teens did in fact kill the 3rd girl .- in this case a BEst Friend. They lured her out from home at night with some sort of promise & drove her to the woods & killed her & went home.

    Victim was a missing person . I don’t recall how they found out it was her best friends.

    So there is a big big difference between a kid toffing herself for perceived. Taunts & those that actually did kill . Kids have always been suiciding .

Hey, I’m not a lawyer. But the charges against the boys were DISMISSED.

Charging them again would be double-jeopardy.

Sort’a like the “journalist” who asked the director of “Gravity” what it was like to work out in space. (I guess it’s something you have to get used to?)

We once had a Constitution. It was a beautiful thing. Came with a Bill of Rights. But it’s gone, now. “One,” went with PC. “Two” … only if you have fears the government’s gonna take over your bedrooms to house troops.

And, then you work your way down the list.

    rabidfox in reply to Carol Herman. | October 17, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Carol, double jeopardy applies to trials only. People cannot be tried twice for the same crime. Charged is merely an accusation which isn’t a trial.

The other thing I think about is that all the publicity this case is getting might be inadvertently sending a dangerous message to other 12-year-old girls who’ve been bullied.

Depressed 12-year-old girls are not known for their rational thinking or ability to think things through and see into the future. Think about how this might look from a bullied and depressed 12-year-old’s perspective:

“I’m being mercilessly bullied, I have no friends, no-one cares, it’s never going to stop, nothing’s ever going to get better, my whole life is ruined. The mean girls who are doing this to me keep getting off scot-free. When this happened to that girl in Florida, she killed herself, and now everyone says nice things about her all the time and everyone loves and misses her and says how tragic it is, PLUS the girls who were bullying her finally got their comeuppance, they got arrested and hauled off the police station and now the WORLD knows how awful they are, and everyone finally feels sorry for the girl who was being bullied and feels bad that they didn’t do anything to stop it when they had the chance. Maybe that’s what I have to do too…”

It’s not rational, but as I said, even normal 12-year-old girls are not always rational, and if they’re suffering depression, they’re probably even less so. I’d really hate for any child to think that this is the answer. And I don’t really think anyone thought through any of the possible unintended consequences of turning this into a huge cause célèbre.

Double, triple, quadruple or greater jeopardy is what the deceased child could have suffered

– first the bullying from multiple sources
– second, the lack of adequate parental wisdom and support.

Other possible factors:
– side effects from anti-depressants (some can cause suicidal ideation)
– school or professional counseling (hate to say it, but some are poorly trained, have political agendas and/or emotional problems themselves which can do grave harm to a disturbed child.
– social environment, destructive, negative influence of peers (friends can make things a lot worse)

I don’t think bullying is any worse now than it was when I was a kid with the exception of today’s electronic bullying. Heck, I went to three elementary schools, two middle schools, three high schools and two colleges. Believe me, I could write a book on the subject. I learned to deal with it. Bully’s are in general, mentally weak, unintelligent opportunists that when confronted by someone that won’t put up with their bullying back down pretty quickly. Did I get my ass kicked by bullies? More than once but, they never messed with me again. Bullying doesn’t stop in middle or high school and continues throughout life. Learning how to deal with it is one of lifes lessons.