Girl, 12, sentenced for cyberstalking
A 12-year-old girl was given a deferred sentence for cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing, which requires her to stay out of trouble for six months, attend counseling, perform 20 hours of community service and follow other requirements.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Leslie Cote's 12-year-old neighbor offered a tearful apology in court Wednesday for posting sexually explicit photos and messages on her classmate's Facebook page.
The girl was then given a deferred sentence for cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing, which requires her to stay out of trouble for six months, attend counseling, perform 20 hours of community service and follow other requirements. A co-defendant in the case, an 11-year-old girl, was given a diverted sentence — meaning that if she abides by the requirements set out by probation the case will be dismissed and expunged from her record, according to prosecutors.
But for Leslie and her mother, Tara Cote, it wasn't enough.
"I feel that they deserve to be punished and they were not," Leslie said after the sentencing in King County Juvenile Court.
Tara Cote said that she was discouraged that Judge Helen Halpert did not grant the prosecution's request that the 12-year-old girl be banned from all social-networking sites for the term of her sentence. Halpert ordered that the girl have adult supervision while using the computer, including while on social-networking sites.
"This [Facebook] was used as a weapon," Tara Cote said. "We are dealing with a lot of damage control. We're the victims."
According to the charges, after the three girls had a falling-out the two defendants used Leslie's password information to post sexually explicit content on her Facebook. They also instant-messaged "random individuals" under Leslie's name to arrange sex acts, Issaquah police said.
The Seattle Times generally does not name suspects charged as juveniles nor victims, but Leslie has asked the media to use her name in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of cyberstalking.
Prosecutors said Leslie had been at the home of one of the defendants in early-March when she logged onto Facebook. Leslie's password information was somehow stored on the girl's computer.
After the girls had a falling-out, the two girls used Leslie's password to access her Facebook page "with the intent of embarrassing and tormenting the victim," police said.
In court Wednesday, the 12-year-old defendant sniffled as she apologized.
"If I could go back, I would change everything. I just feel really bad," the girl said to Halpert. "She didn't deserve to be treated like this at all. I'm really, really sorry."
Halpert told the girl that what she did was a "very bad mistake" that she's certain she can move on from.
Under the six-month deferred sentence, the 12-year-old must also avoid alcohol and drugs and must follow the terms of an anti-harassment order, forbidding her from contacting Leslie. At the end of six months, the charge will be dismissed, King County Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Worley said.
The prosecution had sought a nine-month suspended sentence.
"This particular case has not just caused one victim but three victims with these little girls," defense attorney Maureen McKee said in court. "She made a childish mistake that was magnified due to the anonymity of the web."
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
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