Savannah Dietrich of Louisville, Kentucky, is now facing contempt of court carrying a possible 180 days in jail and a $500 fine for using Twitter to out her juvenile attackers after she learned of the leniency granted them in a plea agreement on June 26, 2012. A hearing on the charges being brought against Ms. Dietrich is scheduled for July 30, 2012.
Naming her assailants on the social media site, Twitter, Savannah tweeted:
There you go, lock me up. I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living hell.
Her story begins in August, 2011, when she passed out at a gathering and was assaulted by two acquaintances. A few months later, she learned that photographs had been taken of the assault and were being shared she explained in an exclusive with a reporter from the Courier-Journal, with her father and attorneys sitting close by during the interview.
For months, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t go out in public places. You just sit there and wonder, who saw (the pictures), who knows?
After making a formal complaint to the Louisville Metro Police, the two juvenile male defendants were purportedly charged with first-degree sexual abuse, a felony, and misdemeanor voyeurism and later, plead guilty to these charges after a plea agreement had been reached without any input or involvement of Savannah or her parents. While neither Ms. Dietrich, her parents or attorneys could discuss the actual sentencing recommendation, she and her family were very upset, felt it to be a slap on the wrist–”like they were given a very, very light deal.”
Following the hearing, Savannah indicated that she was very angry, perused the order against dissemination of what happened in court and the plea agreement, itself, and then reviewed the laws on confidentiality before setting about posting several tweets revealing the identification of her attackers and her feelings about the plea agreement and process. Several of these tweets were reviewed and posted by the Courier-Journal:
They said I can’t talk about it or I’ll be locked up. So I am waiting for them to read this and lock me up. _____ justice.
Protect rapist is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville.
There was no comment by either the attorneys for the defendants or the prosecuting attorney but several free speech and victim’s groups weighed in on both sides of the issue. Seems everyone had an opinion as to what Savannah should or shouldn’t have done. One activist group proclaimed that one should not lose their rights to speak about something merely because it occurred in court while another from a victim’s group stated that Ms. Dietrich should have followed the court’s order, appealed it or minimally, asked the court to vacate its order freeing Savannah to speak, tweet and post.
Me…well I’m an attorney. I am suppose to give deference and respect to the court’s orders and follow the letter of the law. But I am not Savannah, nor was I sexually assault by two depraved rapists who then shared photos of the assault with others. I am most certain that Savannah did not seek nor receive permission from her own attorneys prior to posting on Twitter. In fact, they (the public defenders representing Ms. Dietrich) advised her that the interview with the Courier-Journal could be another violation of the judge’s order and stepped in and prevented her from revealing information that they felt was clearly sealed by the court’s order.
But that is of little import now. This young lady has what the prosecutor lacked. Courage. Had the prosecutor included her in the plea agreement and allowed her to participate in the justice system—she wouldn’t have been assaulted again, this time by the system that was suppose to protect her and bring justice for the wrongs done to her. Now her attorneys and the newspaper are seeking to have her contempt hearing open to the public and media as is allowed under state law, but are facing a battle as the attorneys for the defendants are seeking a closed hearing to protect the identity of the juvenile defendants, as is also Kentucky law.
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