Monte Francis and Tony Kovaleski report the latest development on a South Bay teen's suicide and alleged sexual assault that has made headlines around the world.
NBC Bay Area has learned that three 16-year-old boys charged in the Audrie Pott case were cited on misdemeanor charges relating to the alleged assault and released, days after the attack allegedly happened last September.
Pott is the 15-year-old Los Gatos girl who committed suicide just days after photos of her sexual assault circulated by text message among students at Saratoga High School.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that the three boys were cited and released in September on a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery relating to the case.
Sheriff Laurie Smith also defended her department’s investigation - explaining why it took seven months for the boys to be arrested on felony charges.
“Anytime you do search warrants it’s time consuming,” Smith said. “We have to send computers to forensic labs and we were trying to locate photographs, which we were able to do.”
On a Facebook page for a group called “The Audrie Pott Foundation,” ostensibly managed by her family, someone posted new a message that included new allegations against the three 16 year old suspects, saying, “We suspect that the boys who we believe are responsible for Audrie’s death took deliberate steps to destroy evidence and interfere with the police investigation.”
NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit has learned the Sheriff’s Department did not get all the evidence it was hoping for, specifically the sheriff says they’re still looking for an electronic device – likely a cell phone.
NBC Bay Area doesn’t usually reveal the names of victims of sexual assault, but the girl’s parents wanted their daughter’s story made public to prevent another tragedy. They’re also calling for new legislation in their daughter’s name – that would increase penalties on those who carry out such attacks.
“The family’s goal is that what happened to Audrie never happens again,” said Lauren Cerri, an attorney for the girl’s parents. “So her face being out there and her story being told will increase social awareness.”
The girl’s parents are planning to speak with the media publicly for the first time next Monday at 11 a.m.
Ed Vasquez, another spokesperson for Pott family's attorney Robert Allard, told Bay City News the lawyer's private investigators interviewed a person who stood by in the room and witnessed the alleged sexual assault by the three teens on Audrie. Other kids viewed at least one photo of the alleged attack taken by a cellphone and widely circulated, the news of which led to Audrie's suicide by hanging days later, Vasquez said. "They knew what had happened and no one came forward," he told BCN.
Allard has said the family, which intends to file suit against up to 10 students and parents, wants the three criminal suspects tried as adults.
He claims that Audrie was sexually assaulted multiple times by the suspects as she lay unconscious after drinking alcohol served at a party at the house of a friend whose parents were vacationing in Napa Valley.
The party at the Saratoga home was attended by eight to 10 high school students who consumed hard liquor mixed with Gatorade, Allard said. At least one cellphone photo was taken while Audrie was passed out, unclothed and being assaulted, Allard said.
The image was displayed for others and then sent by text, email and posted on Facebook before it was removed, Allard said.
Audrie, humiliated after finding out about the picture, wrote despairingly about it on her Facebook page and committed suicide in Los Altos on Sept. 12 days after the alleged assault, Allard said.
Bay City News contributed to this report.