As we've seen in the past, social media can add some complications to the normal flow of legal proceedings. In recent months, we've seen court cases wind up declared mistrials because of the social media activity of jury members.
Now, it's the alleged victim in a legal case that's taking heat for her Twitter activity. Seventeen-year-old Savannah Dietrich of Louisville, Kentucky is facing up to 180 days in jail and $500 fine for a series of tweets she made regarding an open case.
The Courier Journal reports that Dietrich, who was reportedly the subject of a sexual assault where two young men violated her while she was under the influence and then circulated photos of the event, was upset about what she felt was the unfair plea bargain that the two men received.
She took to Twitter, where she named the two boys that allegedly assaulted her, saying,
"There you go, lock me up. I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell.”
Another tweet read: "Protect rapist is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville.”
The two boys' attorneys want the trial Judge to hold Dietrich in contempt, as she has violated a court order to keep confidentiality.
The defendants have both already plead guilty, but received what amounts to a "slap on the wrist," according to Dietrich. "So many of my rights have been taken away by these boys. I’m at the point, that if I have to go to jail for my rights, I will do it. If they really feel it’s necessary to throw me in jail for talking about what happened to me as opposed to throwing these boys in jail for what they did to me, then I don’t understand justice.”
Two different Facebook pages have already been set up in support of Dietrich. "Savannah Dietrich is a victim of Sexual Assault, upon doing the right thing and naming the men who assaulted her, she is being wrongfully punished. Please spread the word," reads the page Help Savannah Dietrich.
There's also a petition on popular online petition site Change.org. They are calling on the Kentucky District Court Judge on the case to dismiss the charges of Dietrich for tweeting the names of her attackers.
She tweeted the names of her attackers anyway, likely feeling that it is wrong for anyone to get away for what they did to her. Now, she may face jail time for "contempt" because she stated who attacked her. Her punishment may be up to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine. This girl has already been traumatized and abused by her attackers. Now they want to violate her rights and ability to control her body again by putting her in prison, and the twisted laws are on their side.
Please sign to tell Judge Dee McDonald, stand with rape victims, not their attackers. For too long, rape and assault have gone unreported and un prosecuted. Please do not send Savannah to jail for standing up for herself.
Whether or not your think that Dietrich was right in her actions or that she violated the law, the only thing that's certain is that cases like this are only going to increase as more and more people have access to public forums like Facebook and Twitter.
UPDATE: As of Monday afternoon, defense attorneys for the two boys have withdrawn the motion to hold Dietrich in contempt for tweeting their clients' names. Since the names have already been tweeted, one defense attorney told the Courier Journal, "“What could contempt do now? Seems like a rather useless exercise doesn’t it?"