Sunday, January 21, 2018
Public safety

Attorney says charges dropped in bullying case

ORLANDO — Charges have been dropped against two girls who the Polk County sheriff had accused of bullying a classmate who later committed suicide, the girls' attorneys said Wednesday.

Last month, Sheriff Grady Judd announced the arrest of a 12-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl as juveniles on stalking charges. He said then that the two were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old who jumped to her death at an abandoned concrete plant in September.

Attorney Jose Baez demanded an apology Wednesday from Judd for arresting his client, the 12-year-old. The lawyer said it was "reckless" for Judd to have brought a juvenile count of third-degree felony aggravated stalking against the girl.

Separately Wednesday, attorney Ronald Toward told the Associated Press in an email that the same count had been dropped against his 14-year-old client by the State Attorney's Office in Polk County.

At an earlier news conference in Orlando, Baez said an apology was in order from the sheriff for placing the 12-year-old's name and mug shot before television cameras at news conference last month announcing the arrests.

Baez on Wednesday described his client as a "troubled young girl" who had been bullied herself.

"I found zero evidence having to do with my client that would rise to the level of a criminal act," Baez told reporters.

At a news conference in Winter Haven — just minutes after Baez's news conference had ended — Judd said he didn't regret anything he did. He said that he is happy with the outcome and that the girls will receive "the services they need."

"Our goal is that these kids never bully anyone again, never torment anyone again," Judd said.

Baez said his client hasn't ruled out a lawsuit against the sheriff.

Brian Haas, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office in Polk County, said Florida law prevented him from commenting on juvenile cases.

At last month's news conference announcing the arrests, Judd said the bullying began about a year ago after the 14-year-old girl started dating Rebecca's ex-boyfriend.

Information from the Ledger was used in the report.

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