Three Northern California teenagers who admitted to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl who later committed suicide after photographs of the assault were circulated to classmates, were ordered to serve sentences of only 30 and 45 days in juvenile detention, according to documents obtained by the San Jose Mercury News this week.
In September, the unnamed teens admitted in Santa Clara County Juvenile Court to carrying out the sexual assault, which the parents of victim Audrie Pott called "heinous acts on an unconscious minor," as well as possessing photographs of their victim. Both are felony crimes.
The court sentenced two of the perpetrators, both 16 years old, to 30 days in juvenile detention. Those sentences have already been served. The third defendant, who is 17, is currently serving a continuous 45-day sentence. It's unclear when the sentences were handed down because juvenile court proceedings are not open to the public.
The sentences would have carried a maximum prison sentence of 10 years had the teens been tried as adults. They are also more lenient than the sentences handed down to two 16-year-old boys in Steubenville, Ohio, who were ordered to serve one and two years in juvenile detention on sexual assault convictions in a case that has been widely compared to the Pott case.
Barry Krisberg, a senior fellow at the UC Berkeley School of Law, told the San Jose Mercury News that the light sentences did not "completely surprise" him.
"It's what I call justice by geography. The juvenile court has wide disparities in the amount of penalties it connects to specific behaviors," Krisberg told the paper. "On average, Santa Clara (County) has lower sentences than other places. They've embraced the treatment and rehabilitation strategy."
The Mercury News also reported that new court records showed that two of the teens involved in the case had admitted to possessing or controlling sexual photos of girls under the age of 18 after their assault on Pott, but before their arrest in April 2013.
The Pott family, through their lawyer, said in a statement last week: "It has become quite clear to us that the suspects refuse to accept responsibility or show remorse for their actions. The fact that they have not learned their lesson is demonstrated by the fact that two of these young adults, even after Audrie's death, have continued to engage in 'slut shaming' other young women through, for example, the dissemination of nude photographs."
Pott hanged herself on Sept. 10, 2012, eight days after attending a party at a friend's house in Saratoga, Calif. After drinking Gatorade laced with alcohol, she fell asleep and later woke to find her pants off and lewd comments scribbled all over her body.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that days after the incident Pott exchanged messages with one of the defendants to determine what had happened that night.
In the week following the party, she learned that cellphone photos had been taken of her during a sexual assault and shared through text messages, her family said.
"My life is over," Pott wrote in a private Facebook message days before she committed suicide. "I have a reputation for a night I don't even remember, and the whole school knows."
The three defendants have also been sued by Audrie's parents, Lawrence and Sheila Pott.
"We cannot publicly comment on any aspect of any criminal proceedings involving these young men," their lawyer, Robert Allard, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Christopher Arriola, Santa Clara County's supervising deputy district attorney for juvenile justice, said he was also prohibited from commenting on the case.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press