The attorney for the family of Audrie Pott, the 15-year-old California girl who took her own life after an alleged sexual assault last September, told Yahoo News Friday that prosecutors will attempt to try the three accused teenage boys as adults.
"This is not your typical juvenile crime," said Bob Allard, who is representing the Pott family. "We're talking about an orchestrated crime. Right up next to murder would be an assault like this. An adult-like crime with an adult-like mentality."
Allard said he is advocating for a homicide charge on behalf of the family against the three alleged assailants who were schoolmates of Pott. The boys, all age 16, were arrested Thursday and charged with sexual battery. Their names were not released because they are minors.
Yahoo News generally does not release the name of alleged sexual assault victims, but the Pott family wanted Audrie's name known.
"This family has lost a sister and daughter to death," Allard said. "The penalty should be commensurate."
Reached by phone Friday, Jaron Shipp of the Santa Clara County district attorney's office said it is "unlikely" a suicide could become a homicide case. Shipp would not comment specifically on the Pott case, as it is a juvenile matter.
Pott was allegedly assaulted after passing out at a party in a house near San Jose last fall. Eight days later, after cell phone photos of the assault were passed around, she posted on Facebook that her life was ruined. "Worst day ever," she wrote. She then hanged herself.
"There's no doubt that the combination of the assault and the torture by cyberbullying caused Audrie to end her life," Allard said.
The use of social media has played a prominent role in several high-profile high sexual assault cases in recent months, including the rape of a 16-year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio last August. Two high school football players were convicted last month of assaulting the girl after photos exchanged on social media implicated them in the attack.
Eight months passed between the alleged assault on Audrie Pott and the arrests of the three boys. Allard said Audrie's parents are "temporarily rejoicing" at the news that they may be tried as adults.
Allard said the family will also be pushing for legislative action in the form of "Audrie's Law," which would call for harsher penalties for cyberbullying.
Matthew Galluzzo, a New York attorney who represents rape victims, said the fear of social media can keep victims from coming forward after an assault.
"A lot of victims don't want to tell their parents, their boyfriend," Galluzzo said. "God forbid the whole school knows. That's your world. You almost get victimized a second time."
According to Allard, the humiliation was too much for Pott to bear.
"It's the ultimate betrayal," he said. "The whole school knew. It's the worst way imaginable to be violated. That's something to be reserved for your husband. It's savage. It's just savage."
The Pott family is planning a press conference Tuesday.