Audrie Pott: Boys Admit to Sexually Assaulting Teen Who Committed Suicide
Three Saratoga teens received 30 and 45-day juvenile hall sentences for sexually assaulting and scribbling in Sharpie pen all over Audrie Pott, who hanged herself in 2012 after photos of her graffittied body spread across social media.
While their punishment seemed rather light to some observers, especially given the high-profile nature of the incident, it might help a parallel case that Pott's family is currently fighting in Santa Clara Superior Court.
In October of last year, Lawrence and Sheila Pott filed a wrongful death suit against the three young perpetrators, their parents, the couple who owned the bungalow on Elva Avenue where the crime took place, and a 16-year-old girl who'd been deemed an accessory to the crime. The Potts ascribed Audrie's death to "acute embarrassment, shame, humiliation, etc. arising out of the incidents occurring at the party," and blamed the Elva Ave. homeowners, Michael and Sheila Penuen, for negligently entrusting a house with an unlocked liquor cabinet to the care of their teenage daughter.
That lawsuit is still pending, but news of the guilty plea and sentencing, which leaked to the Merc this week, might help boost the Potts' case.
"....These are admissions of wrongdoing," the Potts' lawyer B. Robert Allard writes, via e-mail. "In that sense, we no longer have to prove that the assaults have occurred."
That said, the boys' seemingly mild sentences don't bode so well for other people looking to prosecute teen bullies. Like the similarly fraught Steubenville rape case, Audrie Pott's suicide came to symbolize the noxious power of teen aggression when it's amplified by social media. It ignited a national debate about where to assign blame when Internet "slut-shaming" gets out of hand, and whether teen tormentors should be held liable when their victims commit suicide.
Pott's suicide even inspired controversial legislation that allows California schools to discipline students for cyber-bullying.
For now, though, juvenile courts have limited ability to punish kids for Internet taunts. Audrie Pott's parents may have to keep seeking justice through other avenues.