News

Proposed 'Audrie's Law' to stiffen cyberbullying penalties

Named for Saratoga teen who hanged herself in 2012

A state senator on Friday announced the details of a bill designed to prevent cases like the suicide of Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old girl who hanged herself after she was sexually assaulted at a party in Saratoga in 2012.

Dubbed "Audrie's Law" by state Sen. Jim Beall (D-Campbell) would stiffen penalties for yberbullying and allow juveniles to be tried as adults in cases of sexual assault with defenseless victims, according to Beall's office.

Beall appeared at a news conference in Saratoga Friday morning to announce the bill with Audrie's mother, Sheila Pott.

Audrie's family has said that after drinking too much vodka and passing out at a party on Sept. 2, 2012, Audrie, a student at Saratoga High School, was disrobed, sexually assaulted and had messages written on her body with markers.

The students allegedly took photos of her after the assault and disseminated them among their classmates, leading Audrie to post in a private

message on Facebook, "They took pictures of me. My life is ruined," according to her family.

Audrie committed suicide eight days after the incident. Three teenage boys were arrested in the case and tried as juveniles. But under Beall's proposed legislation, the three could have been tried as adults.

Existing California law allows defendants over the age of 14 to be prosecuted as adults in cases of forcible rape and sexual assault. Beall proposes to amend that to include circumstances when the victim is incapable of giving consent because of mental or physical incapacitation.

Juveniles could also be tried as adults in cases where they used social media to identify, intimidate, harass, humiliate or bully the victim,

according to Beall's office.

The legislation would also create tough penalties for electronically distributing sexually explicit photos to intimidate, embarrass or harass another person.

Under Audrie's Law, offenders could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the victim was a juvenile, the penalty would be up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

To expand the list of crimes where juveniles may be charged as adults will require an amendment to Proposition 21, a 2000 ballot initiative that set higher penalties for certain juvenile offenses, and therefore will require a two-thirds majority to pass, according to Beall's office.

— Bay City News Service

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