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California case another three-part tragedy of rape, cyber bullying and suicide

Pott Family / Zuma Press, file

Audrie Pott in an undated photo provided by her family.

 

Three boys accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old California girl who took her own life after pictures of the attack were posted online are due in court this week, as authorities ramp up their investigation into the latest case involving rape and cyber bullying.

NBC Bay Area reported that three 16-year-olds from Saratoga, a town of about 30,000 that is 13 miles west of San Jose, were arrested last week in connection with the September 2012 sexual assault of Audrie Pott.


Pott, 15, hanged herself eight days after the alleged assault, apparently despondent after photos of the attack were posted online and shared among classmates at Saratoga High School.

Pott's parents have said they did even not know about the attack until after their daughter's death. The parents have been in seclusion since the three boys were arrested, but they plan to speak publicly about the case at a news conference scheduled for Monday, according to NBC Bay Area.

"We're talking about, other than murdering someone, the highest degree of a crime you could possibly do, which is to violate them in the worst of ways ... and then to effectively rub her face in it afterwards," Robert Allard, the attorney representing the girl's mother, father and step-mother, told the Associated Press on Friday.

Allard said Pott was intoxicated and unconscious when the assault occurred, and that "there were multiple boys in the room with her."


Lawyers for the boys, whose names have not been released because they are minors, released a statement on Friday asking for the public to withhold judgement until their clients can tell their side of the story, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

"Much of what has been reported over the last several days is inaccurate. Most disturbing is the attempt to link (Audrie's) suicide to the specific actions of these three boys," the statement from San Jose attorneys Eric Geffon, Alan Lagod and Benjamin Williams reads. "We are hopeful that everyone understands that these boys, none of whom have ever been in trouble with the law, are to be regarded as innocent."

The boys are currently in a juvenile hall, although no charges have been formally filed, and are expected to appear in court on Tuesday, according to NBC Bay Area.

The incident occurred over Labor Day weekend last year in a prosperous Silicon Valley suburb on the west side of the Santa Clara Valley  that is known for its wineries and high-end boutiques.

The AP said Pott was at a sleepover at a friend's house when the unaccompanied teens got into liquor.

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At some point, Pott went upstairs to sleep and "woke up to the worst nightmare possible," Allard told the AP.

The attorney said Pott soon "found an abundance of material online about that night, including pictures and emails." She also determined that the alleged attackers were boys she had considered friends. Pott then wrote on Facebook that the whole school  knew what happened and that her life was ruined, Allard said.

Members of the Pott family recently accused the alleged attackers of destroying evidence in the case, writing on Facebook that the "the boys who we believe responsible for Audrie's death took deliberate steps to destroy evidence and interfere with the police investigation." The family asked students with information about the case to come forward.

Santa Clara Country Sheriff Laurie Smith confirmed to NBC Bay Area that her department believes they're missing a key piece of evidence, which she described as a "critical electronic device" that has not been turned over.

The arrests of the three boys Thursday pushed the Saratoga case into the national spotlight, coming on the heels of the rape trial in Steubenville, Ohio, and the news that authorities in Canada are reopening their investigation in the case of 17-year-old suicide victim Rehtaeh Parsons.

Parsons, of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was photographed during a sexual assault in November, 2011, then allegedly bullied online. Parson was taken off life support Sunday, April 7 — three days after hanging herself.

The Audrie Pott Foundation announced on Saturday it would hold a candlelight vigil at Saratago High School next Friday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this story