http://www.courier-journal.com/artic...annah-DietrichFrustrated by what she felt was a lenient plea bargain for two teens who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her and circulating pictures of the incident, a Louisville 17-year-old lashed out on Twitter.
“There you go, lock me up,” Savannah Dietrich tweeted, as she named the boys who she said sexually assaulted her. “I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”
Now, Dietrich is facing a potential jail sentence, as the attorneys for the boys have asked a Jefferson District Court judge to hold her in contempt because they say that in naming her attackers, she violated the confidentiality of a juvenile hearing and the court’s order not to speak of it.
A contempt charge carries a potential sentence of up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine.
“So many of my rights have been taken away by these boys,” said Dietrich, who waived confidentiality in her case to speak to The Courier-Journal. Her parents also gave their written permission for her to speak with the newspaper.
“I’m at the point, that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it,” she said. “If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me ... as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice.”
The boys have not yet been sentenced.
The Courier-Journal is not naming them; the newspaper usually does not identify minors in juvenile court, with the exception of some cases, like murder.
Juvenile court is closed in Kentucky to protect the confidentiality of defendants, but Dietrich has consented to the media’s presence at her contempt hearing, which is allowed under state law.
A hearing is scheduled for July 30 in juvenile court to decide if the media will be allowed into the contempt hearing.
The Courier-Journal and Dietrich’s attorneys have filed motions to open the proceedings, arguing she has a First Amendment right to speak about what happened in her case and a right to a public hearing on the contempt charge.
The boys’ attorneys, however, have asked the court to continue the order barring Dietrich from speaking to the media about the assault case or allowing the newspaper or anyone else to witness the contempt hearing.
Emily Farrar-Crockett, deputy division chief of the public defender’s juvenile division and one of Dietrich’s attorneys, said her client was advised that her interview with the newspaper could “potentially” be a violation of the judge’s order.
“But she feels it’s important to speak out and chose to do so,” Farrar-Crockett said.
Dietrich’s attorneys did stop her from responding to questions about specific details of what happened in court and other issues they believe are currently sealed.
Judge Dee McDonald has not ruled on a motion to allow the newspaper to see the motions filed by attorneys for Dietrich, but she denied a reporter access to a hearing earlier this month where an attorney for the newspaper made an initial motion to intervene in the case.
Legal experts say such cases are becoming more common, in which people are communicating more frequently through social media and violating court orders not to speak.
“In the past, people would complain to anyone who would listen, but they didn’t have a way to publish their comments where there would be a permanent record, like on Facebook and Twitter, for people to see worldwide,” said Gregg Leslie, interim executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Va.
“It’s just going to happen more and more.”
Pictures of assault
Dietrich said she was sexually assaulted by two teen boys she knew in August 2011. She had been drinking at a gathering, she said, and became unconscious. Months later she learned that pictures of the incident had been taken and shared with others.
“For months, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t go out in public places,” she told the newspaper, as her father, Michael, and attorneys sat nearby. “You just sit there and wonder, who saw (the pictures), who knows?”
Dietrich and her parents went to Louisville Metro Police, who eventually charged the two juvenile defendants with first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and misdemeanor voyeurism, according information contained in the court motion filed by the newspaper.
The teens pleaded guilty to those charges in late June, though Dietrich and her family say they were unaware of the plea bargain and recommended sentence until just before it was announced in court — and were upset with what they felt was a slap on the wrist for the attackers.
“I felt like they were given a very, very light deal,” Dietrich said. “I wasn’t happy with it, at all.”
Neither Dietrich nor her attorneys said they could talk about the details of the plea agreement under the court order. The teens are to be sentenced next month, and the judge has the power to accept, reject or modify the terms of the proposed agreement.
Their attorneys, Chris Klein and David Mejia, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Bill Patteson, spokesman for the Jefferson County attorney’s office, which handled the prosecution, said Friday that he could not comment on the case.
Following the plea, McDonald admonished everyone involved not to speak to anyone about what had happened in the court or about the crime in general, according to Dietrich.
“I was crying as she (the judge) was reading that,” Dietrich said. “They got off very easy ... and they tell me to be quiet, just silencing me at the end.”
Angry after the June 26 hearing, Dietrich posted several tweets on her Twitter account naming the two teens who pleaded guilty.
“They said I can’t talk about it or I’ll be locked up,” Dietrich tweeted. “So I’m waiting for them to read this and lock me up. ____ justice.
“Protect rapist is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville.”
The newspaper was able to view the tweets on her account.
Farrar-Crockett said Dietrich looked at the laws of confidentiality before she tweeted and “tried not to violate what she believed the law to be,” not tweeting about what happened in court or was in court records.
Leslie, of the press freedom committee, said Dietrich should “not be legally barred from talking about what happened to her. That’s a wide-ranging restraint on speech.”
“By going to court, you shouldn’t lose the legal right to talk about something.”
But other legal experts said Dietrich knew the court’s order was in place and had a responsibility not to violate it, regardless of whether it was overly broad.
David Marburger, an Ohio media law specialist, said even if the judge is limiting freedom of speech with an order, “it doesn’t necessarily free you from that order. You have to respect the order and get the judge to vacate the order or get a higher court to restrain the judge from enforcing the order.”
Jo Ann Phillips, who heads Kentuckians Voice for Crime Victims, said she doesn’t blame Dietrich for standing up for what she felt was an injustice, but said she should have gone about it another way.
“This (assault) could affect her for the rest of her life and the fact that she said, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,’ you have to applaud her,” Phillips said. “But you also have to respect authority.
“ ... She should have gone to a victims’ group or her local legislator and fought for the right to speak out.”
Dietrich said that despite the judge’s order, she needed to stand up for herself. “I’m at the point that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it.”
There's a Change.org petition that's been going around to have the charges filed against her dropped:
If you have a heart I strongly suggest you fill it out now.