Issaquah girl, 12, sentenced for Facebook cyberbullying
July 19, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
A 12-year-old Issaquah girl received a suspended sentence July 13 for posting lewd photos and messages on a classmate’s Facebook page, but she can continue to access the social-networking site, albeit under adult supervision.
The sentence includes 20 hours of community service in addition to supervision for all computer use. King County Juvenile Court also ordered the girl to write a letter of apology to the 12-year-old classmate targeted in the incident.
If she completes all conditions of the deferred sentence and stays out of trouble for six months, the court intends to dismiss the charges for first-degree computer trespassing, a felony, and cyberstalking, a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors said the girl and a classmate, a then-11-year-old, posted explicit photos and sent solicitations for sex from the account for Issaquah Middle School student Leslie Cote. Her family asked for media outlets to name Leslie in news coverage to draw attention to cyberbullying and Facebook misconduct.
The incident attracted national attention to cyberbullying, and led to a “Today” interview for Leslie and her family.
Earlier in the month, the Juvenile Court Diversion Committee ordered the then-11-year-old, who has since turned 12, to complete community service. If she completes the service, the court intends to dismiss the charges against her, too.
Diversion is a common path for first- or second-time juvenile offenders. Prosecutors review a case to determine whether a juvenile offender is eligible and, if both the youth and the prosecutor agree, the offender enters into a written agreement to complete court-ordered requirements or face consequences.
Under state law, the girls faced a maximum penalty of up to 30 days in juvenile detention for computer trespassing and cyberstalking.
On May 10, the same day Issaquah Middle School students received a lesson in online security, the 12-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.
The lewd messages and photos started appearing on Leslie’s Facebook page at about 3 p.m. March 18.
Investigators said the girls scrawled the phrase “I’m a slut” across a photo of the then-sixth-grader and used the site’s instant messaging service to proposition boys for sexual acts.
Issaquah police officers arrested the girls for the R-rated prank hours later.
Facebook’s terms of service include language about limiting users to age 13 and older, but in April, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said the age limit amounts to “unenforceable internal policy” and did not affect the case.
The case attracted the spotlight as Satterberg used the cause to show the consequences of cyberbullying.
“Our goal in charging this case is not to put these girls in detention. It’s not to give them a criminal record that will follow them for the rest of their days,” Satterberg said in April. “It is to have them stand up in front of a judge and be held accountable and, frankly, to ask them to apologize.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.