Charges dropped against teens in Polk Co. bullying case

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Charges have been dropped against two teenage girls whom a sheriff had accused of bullying a Florida classmate who later committed suicide, the girls' attorneys said Wednesday.

Katelyn Roman and Guadalupe Shaw were both arrested on charges of aggravated stalking after 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick killed herself.

Police said Rebecca was tormented online and at school by as many as 15 girls before she climbed a tower at an abandoned concrete plant and hurled herself to her death Sept. 9.


Facebook chats involving cyberbully-suicide suspects: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3


Last month, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said then that the two were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year-old who jumped to her death at an abandoned concrete plant in September.

Attorney Jose Baez held a news conference Wednesday to announce that the charge had been dropped against his 12-year-old client, Katelyn Roman. Ronald Toward, the attorney for Guadalupe Shaw, 13, told The Associated Press in an email Wednesday evening that The State Attorney's Office in Polk County charge also had dropped the charge against his client.

 Baez demanded an apology from Judd for arresting the 12-year-old, whom he described as a "troubled young girl" who had been bullied herself.

 The lawyer said it was "reckless" for Judd to have brought a juvenile count of third-degree felony aggravated stalking against the girl, and to name her and show her mug shot at a news conference last month announcing the arrests.

 "I found zero evidence having to do with my client that would rise to the level of a criminal act," Baez told reporters.

At a news conference in Winter Haven -- just minutes after Baez's news conference had ended -- Judd said he didn't regret anything he did. He said that he is happy with the outcome and that the girls will receive "the services they need."

"Our goal is that these kids never bully anyone again, never torment anyone again," Judd said.

Baez said his client hasn't ruled out a lawsuit against the sheriff.

Brian Haas, a spokesman for the State Attorney's Office in Polk County, said Florida law prevented him from commenting on juvenile cases.

At last month's news conference announcing the arrests, Judd said the bullying began about a year ago after the 13-year-old girl started dating Rebecca's ex-boyfriend. The older girl threatened to fight Rebecca while they were sixth-graders at a middle school  in Lakeland, Fla., and told her "to drink bleach and die," the sheriff had said. She also persuaded the younger girl to bully Rebecca, even though they had been best friends, the sheriff said.

Judd said both Roman and Shaw will receive counseling.