Charge dismissed against Jefferson County teen after Facebook threat
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We didn’t see that there was a victim here,” said Deputy Prosecutor Tom Brotherton, who filed the motion to dismiss.
“When a kid does something bad the first time, you don’t always want to punish them,” he added after the hearing in Jefferson County Superior Court. “It’s better to redirect their behavior.”
Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Potebnya filed a charge of harassment, threat to kill — a Class C felony — Wednesday morning against the ninth-grader. The Peninsula Daily News is not identifying her because she is a minor.
When Brotherton examined the evidence, he decided the charge should be dismissed without prejudice, which allows the prosecutor to refile if new information becomes available, because no victim was named.
The charge stemmed from a posting on the “PTHS Confessions” Facebook page, which allowed students to post anonymous messages about themselves and others, city police said.
Police Officer Luke Bogues said the girl’s post was in reaction to another student she felt was being bullied in posts on the page.
It said, according to Bogues: “One more post about [name of another girl] and I will literally take a shotgun to school and turn into some kind of blood thirsty Hitler and shoot you square in the face!”
School Resource Officer Garin Williams noticed the posting Monday morning, police said.
The page was taken offline Tuesday, Bogues said.
Said Bogues in an email: “Her comment about bringing a shotgun to school was apparently in response to other PTHS Confessions posts making fun of another girl (a third party).
“The appropriate thing for her to do would have been to bring up her concerns about her friend to school officials or the school resource officer.”
According to the probable-cause statement by the police, those who wished to comment on the site did so through www.SurveyMonkey.com, which then posted the comment on the Facebook page anonymously.
Police obtained a warrant to search the site, then traced the IP address of the computer that made the post, leading them to a Port Townsend house, where they picked up the teen for questioning.
Police said the teen admitted writing the posting, describing it as a joke.
She was arrested on suspicion of felony harassment and was held at a low-security facility run by Jefferson County Juvenile Services.
Bogues said there was no indication of any attempt to carry out the threat, and no gun was located in connection with the girl.
She appeared before Court Commissioner Stephen Gillard accompanied by her parents and was represented by attorney Scott Charlton.
The hearing lasted fewer than 10 minutes, after which time the teen was released.
An investigation into the incident continues in determining whether any students were victimized, Bogues said.
Schools Superintendent David Engle said the school system is keeping a close watch on cyberbullying but has not formulated am effective policy for its control.
“We are waiting to see what happens,” he said.
“The safety of the students is the most important thing.”
Engle said school computers that allow student access block Facebook, but “any student with a smartphone can log on anywhere he likes while he is on school property.”
Williams said in a statement that every questionable comment needs to be investigated.
“Students may see posts like those on PTHS Confessions as harmless fun, but the online comments can have real-world consequences,” Williams said.
“With the high-profile of tragic school shootings across the country, law enforcement and school officials are compelled to take any security risk seriously.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: April 17. 2013 6:32PM