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Florida girl wrongly accused of cyber-bullying files lawsuit against Sheriff

Bullying has been gaining more and more national attention in recent years, it seems, particularly as the increased use of social media sites among young people has increased. Social media sites like Facebook, it is well known, provide a platform for potential bullying to occur, and young people can sometimes get themselves into trouble when they use social media to bully. In some cases, though, accusations of bullying are false.

Readers may remember the story of a Florida girl who was arrested last year in connection with the death of a 12-year-old who took her own life last September in Lakeland. The suicide was allegedly prompted by online bullying. Two of the girl’s classmates were singled out during an investigation and charged as adults with the felony offense of aggravated stalking. The charges were later dropped, apparently for lack of evidence. 

Along with the charges came media exposure which left the accused with “emotional and psychological trauma.”

That trauma has reportedly become the subject of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the girl and her mother. The two seek a settlement for harm done to them in what they regard as a “witch hunt” initiated by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Without commenting on the specifics of this case, it is important for those targeted for criminal charges to remember that they have rights when it comes to criminal investigations. When police engage in misconduct in the course of a criminal investigation, victims of that misconduct are not without recourse. Anybody who has been subjected to improper treatment during the course of a criminal investigation needs to work closely with an experienced attorney to determine what implications that misconduct may have on their criminal case, as well as on potential civil rights litigation.

Source: New York Daily News, “Family intends to sue Florida authorities after wrongful arrest and identification of minor during cyber-bullying case,” Nicole Hensley, September 19, 2014. 

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