A 17-year-old Kentucky girl won't face contempt of court charges after tweeting the names of two boys who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her.
The girl says she was upset by the light sentence the boys would receive for their plea deal and she appeared to defy the court to charge her. The Courier-Journal reports Savannah Dietrich tweeted, “There you go, lock me up.” “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell,”and then named the boys who pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and a misdemeanour charge of voyeurism.
Initially lawyers for the boys asked a judge to hold the girl in contempt for violating the confidentiality of a juvenile hearing and ignoring the judge's order not to speak about it, as Digital Journal reported last week. Her lawyers asked that the hearing be open to the media arguing about her First Amendment right to free speech. The boys' lawyers asked to keep the hearing closed.
The Courier-Press says, almost immediately a Maryland woman, who doesn't even know Dietrich, launched an online petition on change.org and collected 62,000 signatures on the first day, all supporting Dietrich. Elizabeth Beer says,“When I read it, I was appalled and outraged and thought, ‘Somebody has to do something about this. Who is going to do something about this?’” “Everyone wants this girl to have peace and time to recover and not another trauma like jail time.”
The Toronto Star says, on Monday attorneys for the boys dropped their motion to charge her with contempt, but say it has nothing to do with all the attention the case has received. Lawyer David Mejia tells the Courier Press, "The horse is out of the barn, nothing is bringing it back."
Dietrich told The Courier-Journal that two boys she knew sexually assaulted her when she passed out at a party in August of last year. Months later she learned that the assault was photographed and the pictures were posted on the Internet. She tells WPTV, "For months, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn't go out in public places." "You just sit there and wonder, who saw (the pictures), who knows?"
Terry O'Neill, head of the National Organization for Women is quoted in the Courier-Press saying, “These boys shared the picture of her being raped with their friends and she can’t share their names with her Twitter community? That’s just crazy.” O'Neill adds that the motion to withdraw the contempt of court charge is “a huge victory not only for Ms. Dietrich, but for women all over the country.”
Jeff Dion, from the National Center for Victims of Crime, tells The Toronto Star sometimes victims who feel like the justice system failed them will file civil lawsuits in order to get the information out in public, but he says social media has changed all that. “It’s all about giving victims a voice.” “We created victims’ rights out of a recognition that we need victims to come forward in order for our justice system to work.” “Really, what do they get for that?”
Dietrich faced up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine if found guilty of the contempt charge.
The two boys will be sentenced next month.