A 15-year-old girl who committed suicide last fall will be remembered publicly for the first time next week when the Audrie Pott Foundation, named in the victim's honor, is set to hold a candlelight vigil at the Northern California high school where she attended.
Pott, of Saratoga, took her own life on Sept. 10, 2012, eight days after three 16-year-old boys allegedly raped her and posted photos of the attack online, where they circulated through social media. Those boys were arrested Thursday, seven months after the alleged attack and subsequent suicide.
Pott family attorney, Robert Allard, said that "based on what we know," Audrie was intoxicated, unconsious and "there were multiple boys in the room with her. They did unimaginable things to her..."
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NBC4 does not usually identify victims of sexual assault or suicide, but have used the girl’s name in this report with her parents' permission. They are hoping the story will help prevent something like this from happening again. A vigil for their daughter is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, April 19 at Saratoga High School.
The boys are in juvenile hall but no charges have been formally filed. They are expected to appear in court early next week. NBC Bay Area has learned that three 16-year-old boys were cited in September on a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery and then released.
The boys' lawyers released the following statement late Friday claiming the suicide had nothing to do with their clients:
"Much of what has been reported over the last several days is inaccurate. Most disturbing is the attempt to link Audrey’s [sic] suicide to the specific actions of these three boys.
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.
Due to the juvenile nature of the proceedings, we believe it inappropriate to comment further at this time."
The release was signed Eric. S. Geffon, Alan M. Lagod, Benajmin W. Williams.
The Potts' family lawyer said Audrie took her life after learning that her attackers took photos during the assault then published them online and showed them around school. Her parents did not know about the alleged assault until after her death.
In a Facebook post Friday, Pott's family members accused the boys of attempting to destroy evidence in the case:
"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. If students have information about this crime, if they saw pictures or know anything that will assist in bringing these young men to justice, please come forward. Audrie's family is asking for any students with information to please contact our attorney, Robert Allard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-289-1417"
Sheriff Smith told the NBC Bay Area investigative unit that her department does in fact believe it is missing a key piece of evidence, calling it a "critical elecronic device" that has not been turned over. It appeared the sheriff may have been hoping to get pictures relating to the case from that device.
This is not the first high-profile rape case of a young woman investigated by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.
In March 2007, members of the De Anza College baseball team were accused of raping a 17-year-old girl while she was drunk. In that case, the district attorney at the time, Dolores Carr, chose not to file charges against the alleged rapists because she didn't feel there were sufficient charges to convince a jury.
In 2008, the Attorney General's Office agreed, even though her decision not to prosecute was widely questioned.
And in a case eerily similar to Audrie's, 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons of Halifax, Novia Scotia, in Canada, was taken off life support on Sunday, three days after she tried to hang herself. She had been allegedly sexually assaulted by four boys in November 2011 when she was 15 years old and then relentlessly cyberbullied.
The Canadian authorities had conducted a yearlong investigation into the rape, but no charges were ever filed.
As the case surrounding Audrie Pott becomes the latest alleged rape to garner national attention, the foundation website created in her honor has crashed many times due to an overwhelming number of visitors.