SARATOGA, Calif. — Three boys arrested last week on suspicion of sexually abusing a 15-year-old Northern California girl who later took her own life were initially cited on misdemeanor allegations in the case, authorities said.
The investigation in September turned up only enough evidence to support citations for misdemeanor sexual battery, Santa Clara County sheriff's Lt. Jose Cardoza told the San Jose Mercury News on Saturday.
Deputies arrested three 16-year-old boys last week on suspicion of sexual battery against Audrie Pott, a Saratoga High School sophomore who hanged herself last fall after an explicit photo was circulated of the alleged assault.
The boys weren't taken into custody when they were first cited, Cardoza said. He did not know if they had appeared at any juvenile court hearings.
"If all the information that took months to gather and develop was known at the time they were cited, it would have been handled differently, obviously," Cardoza told the newspaper.
It took more time for authorities to serve search warrants and examine computers and cellphones, Cardoza said.
An attorney for Audrie's family says the girl was sexually abused during a sleepover at a friend's home. There were no adults at the home and the unaccompanied teens were drinking.
"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 teenager's mother, father and step-mother, said Friday.
But lawyers for the three boys, whose names have not been released because they are minors, released a statement Friday asking the public to withhold judgment until their clients can give their side of the story.
"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."