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Lawyer: Girl's assault was shared in photos, texts

By Martha Mendoza

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 13 2013 4:32 p.m. MDT

Saratoga resident Jamie Perez speaks to reporters about a 15-year-old California girl that committed suicide after she was sexually assaulted by three of her friends and a photo surfaced online in Saratoga, Calif., Friday, April 12, 2013. Robert Allard, an attorney for the family of Audrie Pott, said Friday the girl saw an intimate photo being passed around online and pieced together from emails and text messages that her friends had victimized her while she slept.

Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

SARATOGA, Calif. — The parents of a 15-year-old California girl who took her own life after she was sexually abused and an explicit photo of the assault circulated among her classmates want the three boys who have been arrested in the case prosecuted as adults, a lawyer for the family says.

Authorities arrested the three 16-year-olds on suspicion of sexual battery against Audrie Pott, a Saratoga High School sophomore who hanged herself in September. The arrests this week shocked many in this prosperous Silicon Valley suburb of 30,000 as new details of the case emerged.

"We're talking about, other than murdering someone, the highest degree of a crime you could possibly do, which is to violate them in the worst of ways...and then to effectively rub her face in it afterwards," Robert Allard, the attorney representing the teenager's mother, father and step-mother, said Friday.

But lawyers for the three boys, whose names have not been released because they are minors, released a statement Friday asking the public to withhold judgment until their clients can give their side of the story, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

"Much of what has been reported over the last several days is inaccurate. Most disturbing is the attempt to link (Audrie's) suicide to the specific actions of these three boys," the statement from San Jose attorneys Eric Geffon, Alan Lagod and Benjamin Williams reads. "We are hopeful that everyone understands that these boys, none of whom have ever been in trouble with the law, are to be regarded as innocent."

Allard said the trouble started over Labor Day weekend while Audrie was on a sleepover at a friend's house where the parents were gone and the unaccompanied teens got into the liquor.

"Audrie, by all accounts, consumed some of that alcohol and eventually went upstairs to go to sleep and woke up to the worst nightmare imaginable," concluding that she had been molested, he said.

She soon found an abundance of material online about that night, including a picture and emails. She also discovered that her attackers were three boys she considered friends — young men in whom she had confided, the lawyer said. On Facebook, Audrie wrote that the whole school knew what happened, and she complained that her life was ruined, Allard said.

Eight days after the party, she hanged herself.

"She was being consoled by other friends and they were concerned about her," the lawyer said. "One day she apparently felt that she couldn't cope with it anymore and poor Audrie was traumatized to the point where she ended her life."

Her parents did not learn about the assault until after her death, when Audrie's friends approached them, Allard said.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith told the Mercury News that investigators for her department started looking into the circumstances surrounding Audrie's Sept. 10 suicide in the days immediately following it. A deputy assigned to Saratoga High heard rumors about the sexual assault and possible photographic evidence, and detectives spent months interviewing students and subpoenaing cell phone records, Smith said.

"We still have more interviews to do. We have more phones to get," the sheriff said. "We have good evidence to justify the criminal charges even though the investigation is ongoing."

Together with two other episodes recently in the news — a suicide in Canada and a rape in Steubenville, Ohio — the case underscored the seeming callousness with which some young people use technology.

In Canada, meanwhile, police said Friday they have received new information and are reopening their investigation in the case of 17-year-old suicide victim Rehtaeh Parsons.

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