Charges Dropped Against 'Cyberbullies' in Rebecca Sedwick Suicide

PHOTO: Two girls were charged with stalking after 12-year-old classmate Rebecca Sedwick killed herself.
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Charges have been dropped against two girls accused of cyberbullying classmate Rebecca Sedwick who committed suicide, according to authorities.

Sedwick, 12, of Lakeland, Fla., climbed a silo tower at an abandoned plant and jumped to her death on Sept. 9 after police say she was relentlessly taunted online.

Two girls ages 12 and 14 were arrested on felony aggravated stalking charges after the Polk County Sheriff's office said both "terrorized" Sedwick and then showed no remorse for Sedwick's death. They have been under house arrest.

The state attorney's office decided to drop the charges against the girls, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference today.

Judd said his office is "exceptionally pleased" with the outcome of the case. He said both children are going to receive the counseling and services they need, which is the "best outcome" for the juveniles.

The 12-year-old is represented by Jose Baez, Casey Anthony's former attorney, who angrily indicated at a prior news conference this evening that he might pursue legal action against the sheriff.

"He should get a lawyer and a darn good one, because he's going to need it," Baez said of Judd.

Baez said that for the sheriff to publicly release his client's mug shot "like she's public enemy number one" was "reprehensible and unconscionable."

Baez said the sheriff went "out of bounds" in how he conducted himself after the arrest with his appearances on multiple television shows.

"If he wants to be a TV star, go out and do it," Baez said. "But don't use the shield of public trust as your pulpit. It's not something we will stand for."

Baez demanded a public apology from the sheriff to his client. When asked if he was pursuing legal action, Baez said, "Everything is being explored right now, all the different remedies that are available to us right now."

When asked about Baez's comments, Judd said that most of them were "bluster."

"We're very comfortable with the cases we made. There's always the opportunity to raise conflict in any criminal case you make," Judd said. "Criminal defense attorneys deny everything, admit nothing and raise counter-claims and I think you saw that."

"Mr. Baez said a lot of things that really don't deserve responses, but I can tell you one thing: when you make an arrest, when you take someone to court for criminal charges on probable cause, you have complied with the law," he said.

The sheriff said his department's goal was to create an intervention by bringing the case to the proper attorneys in the proper manner to assure it was dealt with.

"Let's don't lose focus that we have a 12-year-old child that's dead," he said. "That child was tormented. That child was harassed. That child was beat up. There's a victim."

"Those that were responsible for probable cause, for doing this, we charged," the sheriff said. "And as a result, we kept it in the juvenile system and they received services and that's the outcome we anticipated."

Baez insisted there was "zero evidence of any stalking in this case and especially aggravated stalking, which is a felony" against his client.

"My client got into a schoolyard fight with her approximately a year ago," Baez said. "That was the extent of it. These are children. They sometimes make mistakes, but it never really rose to the level of bullying. I don't think Rebecca's death had anything to do with the conduct of my client."

Baez described his client as "an emotionally unstable child that has gone through some problems of her own," but state emphatically that she was in no way responsible for Sedwick's death.

The lawyer said his client's family is "extremely relieved" and that treatment has been sought for her.

"We were having her evaluated and we plan on getting her extensive counseling because she had issues of her own," Baez said. "She had been bullied on her own."

The state attorney's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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