The parents of a teenage girl who committed suicide after an alleged sexual assault by three teen boys in Saratoga have reached a settlement with two defendants in their wrongful death lawsuit, their attorney said Friday.
Sheila and Lawrence Pott, parents of 15-year-old Audrie Pott, have negotiated a deal with Michael and Sheila Penuen, who owned the home in Saratoga where Audrie was allegedly assaulted during a party in 2012, the Potts' San Jose attorney Robert Allard said.
The settlement, after it is filed and reviewed by a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge, would remove the Penuens as defendants in the suit, Allard said. Meanwhile, an investigation by law enforcement has unearthed a photo of a second nude girl taken by one or more of the boys who also took nude photos of Audrie, Allard said.
The plaintiffs also intend to request a sworn statement from an unnamed adult who allegedly did away with key evidence pertaining to what happened to Audrie at the party, Allard said. Audrie's tragic death is the subject of an upcoming article in Rolling Stone magazine, which Allard said has interviewed him and other people in case.
The new developments come as a case management hearing in the closely watched lawsuit is set for Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, 191 N. First St. in San Jose. The Potts have filed suit against the Penuens, three male teens, a female teen and the children's parents, claiming that the boys abused Audrie sexually at the party Sept. 2, 2012, while she was passed out and showed nude pictures of her to others that upset her and led her to kill herself.
Allard said the parents claim that during the party, held by the Penuens' daughter while the couple was out of town, Audrie drank alcohol and went herself or was helped into an upstairs room to fall asleep. The three boys, listed only as John B., John R. and John G., then moved the unconscious girl to another room, locked the door, removed all or most of her clothing, penetrated her with their fingers, wrote messages on her body and took pictures of her on their cellphones, Allard said.
They then revealed the photos of her to some students at Saratoga High School where they and Audrie were students. Audrie expressed her anguish about the incident in posts on Facebook, then hanged herself and fell comatose Sept. 10, 2012, at her mother's home in Los Altos.
She died two days later.
The teen girl included in the suit, known as Jane C., zipped up Audrie's shorts after the alleged assault, put a blanket over her and then told investigators conflicting stories about what transpired, Allard said. "We believe that she was not only actively involved in the assault, but attempted to cover it up after the fact," Allard said.
"We have no information that she was in the room, but she was aware the boys were in the room behind a locked door and knew there were photographs of (Audrie's) naked body," Allard said. "She had a number of opportunities to do the right thing," he said. "Audrie was basically taunted for a week. If this young girl would have done something different, both during the incident and after the fact, the result may have been different."
The photo of a second nude girl that has emerged was taken after the boys knew Audrie had committed suicide, Allard said. "These people were utterly callous," Allard said. The new photo was recovered during a forensic examination of at least one of the boys' phones by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, Allard said.
The 16-year-old boys, who have not been identified because they are juveniles, were arrested and charged in April on suspicion of felony sexual battery on Audrie. The lawyer also alleged that an adult threw out evidence in the case, after authorities recovered only two of three boys' cellphones. "We are actively investigating one other party for getting rid of evidence that would have assisted in the criminal prosecution" of the boys, Allard said.
The person will be among those from whom Allard said he plans to obtain statements in depositions during the suit's discovery phase, which he figures would take about three months. Others he would like to call forward include the 10 students who told Saratoga high school's student newspaper that they saw the nude pictures taken of Audrie at the party, Allard said. The Potts will ask that a jury be impaneled to hear the civil case, he said.
Allard declined to discuss the terms of the tentative settlement with the Penuens except that their attorney intends to file a motion for good faith settlement, telling the judge they have agreed to settle, in about two weeks.
So far, attorneys for the three boys, the girl and their parents have denied what their clients may have done contributed to Audrie's suicide, he said. A writer for Rolling Stone told Allard that one of the boys' parents said in an interview that Audrie "was really messed up psychologically and saying that her son had nothing to do" with her suicide, he said.
Audrie "did have some issues, she was going through some difficulties" such as her parents' divorce, Allard said.
"The boys knew about that," he said. "Why would you pick on someone who was down?" Michael Korda, a Mountain View-based attorney for one of the juvenile defendants, declined to comment on the case. Another defendant's attorney, Alison Crane of San Francisco, could not be reached for comment.