The 14-year-old Florida girl charged in connection with the suicide of a 12-year-old schoolmate after months of bullying pleaded not guilty on Thursday, according to her attorney.
The girl is one of two Polk County students, ages 12 and 14, arrested and charged with aggravated stalking for “maliciously harassing” Rebecca Ann Sedwick, 12, with verbal and physical abuse and cyber-bullying, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Sedwick, 12, died after jumping from a third-story cement plant structure on Sept. 10.
The 14-year-old involved in the case was scheduled for an arraignment Friday morning, but defense attorney Andrea DeMichael filed a written plea of not guilty, cancelling the arraignment hearing.
Her next court date is Oct. 29 for a pretrial conference.
High-profile attorneys have lined up on both sides of the case, with a former Florida governor representing the victim’s mother, while the defense attorney who made headlines for his defense of Casey Anthony will represent the other girl charged in connection to Sedwick's death.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is among the attorneys representing Tricia Norman, the victim’s mother. Crist served as governor of Florida from 2007-2011 and joined the law firm Morgan & Morgan shortly after he left office, according to Morgan & Morgan’s website.
At a news conference on Thursday morning, Crist said the pervasiveness of cyber bullying was a new reality and a “true societal problem” that was hard to detect.
“When somebody is being this abusive to another human being, it's hard to protect them because it's hard to detect it,” he said. “This is not like somebody being shoved at a playground.”
Norman’s attorneys said they are investigating other students as well as parents of the alleged bullies for negligence and organizations for their role in the case.
NBC News reported this week that Jose Baez, the defense attorney who represented Casey Anthony in a case that captured national attention for months, will represent the 12-year-old girl charged in the case.
Baez represented Anthony in the 2011 trial for the murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Anthony. She was found not guilty of first-degree murder, manslaughter and aggravated child abuse on July 5. Anthony was found guilty of lying to law enforcement.
Attorney Mark O'Mara, who represented George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, also weighed in on the issue and said parents who do not stop their children from cyber-bullying should be held accountable.
"We want these kids to get to 18 and be good responsible adults, but they're not going to get there if they cyberbully each other to death," O'Mara told WKMG news in Orlando.
First published October 24 2013, 11:23 AM