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Family Of 13-Year-Old Arrested In Bullying Suicide Plan To Sue Polk Sheriff

Photo: Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd
Photo: Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd

Attorneys for a 13-year-old Lakeland girl arrested for cyberbullying in the wake of a classmate’s suicide will sue the Polk County Sheriff's Office if a settlement is not reached. The announcement comes just days after a candlelight vigil marking the one-year anniversary of the death of Rebecca Sedwick, the girl’s alleged victim.

The plaintiff was twelve years old when she and another girl were taken into custody for cyberstalking Rebecca Sedwick, also twelve. Rebecca jumped to her death at an abandoned cement factory last September, and bullying was blamed.

The State Attorney’s Office declined to pursue charges against the girls, but by then, the plaintiff’s attorneys say Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd had already “defamed our client, invaded her privacy, and paraded her mugshot to the national news media.”

In an affidavit filed this week, attorneys accuse Judd of violating the girl’s civil rights and falsely charging her with a felony, which allowed him to publicly release her name. They say she has suffered severe emotional and psychological trauma as a result.

Judd said in a statement that he looks forward to "vigorously" defending his decision to arrest.

Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined WMFE in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from extraordinary hurricanes to historic space flights, from the people and procedures of Florida’s justice system to the changing face of the state’s economy.