Florida prosecutors have dropped stalking charges against two girls who were accused of harassing a 12-year-old before she committed suicide, the sheriff who had them arrested said on Wednesday.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who slapped the 12-year-old and 14-year-old with a third-degree felony, defended that decision even as a lawyer for one of the girls said he might sue him.
“He should get a lawyer and a darn good one because he’s gonna need it," Jose Baez, who represents the younger girl, said of Judd.
His client and the other girl were arrested in October, more than a month after Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death from a cement plant tower after enduring what police described as months of verbal, physical and online bullying.
The Florida State Attorney's office said it could not comment on why the charges were dropped because both girls are juveniles, but Judd said the outcome was in the "best interest of the children," who will receive counseling.
"Our goal is that these kids never bully anyone again," he said.
A lawyer for Sedwick's mother, Tricia Norman, said she was "disappointed" the charges were being dismissed.
Handout / Polk County Sheriff's Office via Reuters
Rebecca Ann Sedwick is pictured in this undated handout photo courtesy of Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida.
"But she does understand the state attorney's office recognizes it is dealing with children in a juvenile setting and she respects the decision," said the lawyer, David Henry, who is representing Norman in a possible civil suit.
"She doesn’t want to ruin these young girls lives. She wants to make sure they get on the right path."
When the girls were arrested, the sheriff alleged that they had been "maliciously harassing" Sedwick.
He portrayed the 12-year-old, who had been Sedwick's "best friend" before a falling-out, as a danger.
“We can’t leave her out there. Who else is she going to torment, who else is she going to harass?” he said at the time.
Baez called Judd's comments "reckless" and said there were no grounds for charges.
"There is zero evidence of any stalking in this case," he said.
“These are children, they sometimes make mistakes. I don’t think Rebecca’s death had anything to do with the conduct of my client," Baez added.
Lawyers for the older girl — who allegedly put up a Facebook post that said she had bullied Sedwick and didn't care that she was dead — could not be reached for comment.
Judd described her as "the primary bullier, the one that was more aggressive" and said she was entering what was effectively a "diversion program" to resolve the case.
The 14-year-old's lawyer has said in the past that her client is not a bully and did not write the Facebook post.
“She's a caretaker, and she's very comforting, and just loving to other kids, and the kids in the neighborhood, and she just socializes with a lot of people,’’ DeMichael told TODAY after the arrest.
The sheriff said he had no regrets about charging the girls, whose names are being withheld by NBC News because of their age, and would do it again.
"Let's don't lose focus that we have a 12-year-old that's dead," he said.
Sedwick's mother is still considering a lawsuit against school officials and the parents of her tormentors. Henry said the dismissal of the 12-year-old's case would not affect that.
First published November 20 2013, 6:52 PM