September 14, 2012

Ky. teen who ID’d attackers on Twitter testifies

Brett Barrouquere Associated Press
 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A judge heard Friday from a 17-year-old sexual assault victim who identified her attackers on Twitter despite a gag order because she thought their plea deal was lenient.

Savannah Dietrich said she considered suicide after two boys, then 16 years old, assaulted her in August 2011 and showed semi-nude photos of her to classmates. She has said she was unaware of the plea agreement until just before it was announced in court in June.

The deal calls for the boys to undergo sex offender treatment and serve 50 hours of volunteer work, but it allows them to have their records expunged before the age of 20.

Jefferson District Judge Angela McCormick Bisig had not decided whether to accept the deal. The hearing was still going on Friday afternoon.

The Associated Press does not generally identify victims of sexual assault, but Dietrich and her parents wanted her story public. The names of the two attackers have not been disclosed because the case has been handled in juvenile court.

The assault gained public attention when Dietrich tweeted the names of the boys against a judge’s orders not to discuss the case. Defense attorneys had asked a judge to consider a contempt charge for Dietrich, but dropped their request.

The Courier-Journal fought — and won — to open the case, as well as the court records, to the public.

On Friday, Dietrich read from a statement for more than 15 minutes as her attackers sat at a table, one looking down; the other staring straight ahead.

Dietrich said she was humiliated after the attack.

“I was in so much pain, death seemed like a friendly thought to me,” she said.

Dietrich at times addressed her attackers directly. At other times, her hands visibly shaking, Dietrich faced the judge and unleashed her frustrations about the case.

“I couldn’t even cry myself to sleep,” Dietrich said. “I hardly got any sleep.”

Dietrich said she only wanted an apology and a list of people who were shown the partially nude photos of her taken the night of the assault.

When she got neither, Dietrich said, she went to the police and filed the criminal case. After that, Dietrich said, the two boys and their families began badmouthing her to friends and family members.

“Not only would you not own up to and admit to your actions, you blamed me,” Dietrich said.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell told the judge that Dietrich has “a right to her own personal history” and should not have been told to remain silent about the case.

In interviews with Louisville Metro Police in February, the two boys told detectives that they were drinking with Dietrich and a few other people at her home last August when they were left alone with the heavily intoxicated teen.

They told police they assaulted Dietrich because “we thought it would be funny, but it wasn’t.”

Chris Klein, the attorney for one of the attackers, read a letter his client wrote, apologizing and acknowledging what he did was wrong.

“I still can’t believe I was foolish enough to use such bad judgment,” Klein read from the letter.

Both teens were students at the all-boys Trinity High School in Louisville at the time of the assault. Attorneys said both now attend other schools. One of the teens has since moved with his family to a new neighborhood.

David Mejia, the attorney for the other teen, said his client feels bad about the assault, but didn’t send the photos to anyone. Since the plea became public, Mejia said, his client has faced death threats.

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Follow Barrouquere on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquereAP

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