Fla. teen cleared of cyberbullying: I didn't do 'anything wrong'
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A day after a felony charge of third-degree aggravated stalking against her was dropped, Katelyn Roman, 13, denied any culpability in the case of alleged bullying that led to the suicide of a 12-year-old girl in September.
“No, I do not feel l did anything wrong,’’ Katelyn told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Thursday in an interview alongside her parents and attorney Jose Baez.
Katelyn and a 14-year-old girl whom TODAY is not identifying because she is a juvenile were charged last month after Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff Grady Judd saw a derogatory post on Facebook that he claims was written by one of them. The two girls were arrested after Judd said they were allegedly involved in the bullying of Rebecca Sedwick, 12, who committed suicide on Sept. 9, with the 14-year-old allegedly writing on Facebook, "Yes ik [I know] I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF [I don't give a f---]."
Judd also publicly revealed the girls' names and their mug shots at an Oct. 15 news conference and told TODAY on Oct. 16 that one of the girls did something "despicable" with the post on Facebook.
On Wednesday, the Florida state attorney’s office announced that charges had been dropped and withheld comment on its reasoning because both girls are juveniles. After his public outrage over the alleged bullying by the two girls last month, Judd said at a news conference Wednesday that he was “exceptionally pleased with the outcome of the case.”
“We see the children are going to get the services they need,’’ Judd told reporters, referring to both girls being in counseling. “That’s the best outcome for juveniles. Our goal is that these kids never bully anyone again.”
“I’m very relieved,’’ Katelyn's mother, Roseanne Gill, told Guthrie. “It’s been a horrible experience for me and my daughter and my whole family. This can happen to any child in America, and we have to make sure that we watch our children’s Facebooks. This can happen to anyone, not just my daughter. It could’ve happened to anyone.”
Guthrie asked Katelyn if there was anything she had learned from the ordeal.
“I learned that it’s not OK to bully, and when you have a chance, stand up to bullies,’’ Katelyn replied.
Authorities claim that Rebecca Sedwick was bullied online and at school by as many as 15 girls. On Sept. 9, she climbed a tower in an abandoned concrete plant and jumped to her death. Rebecca had transferred to another school after the alleged physical bullying, but still was harassed on social media, according to authorities. Judd said at the Oct. 15 news conference that there were posts by the 14-year-old girl directed to Rebecca saying things like “Drink bleach and die…No one likes you.”
Katelyn's father, Emilio Roman, denied the accusations that Judd directed toward his daughter.
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“First of all, I feel horrible about what happened to Rebecca,’’ he told Guthrie. “I knew Rebecca. She was a very nice girl. It was basically just they had a confrontation at school, they had a fight, and then it was over with. Then to actually turn around and say that she bullied her and all this other stuff they said, it was totally uncalled for.
“It was uncalled for for Grady Judd to go up there and throw her picture up there and people coming to my house and trying to come and threaten my family, threaten me on the phone, threaten me at my house, I mean it was just crazy the way he did that. Then to put her with all the sayings that they were saying about ‘Drink bleach and die,’ Katie never said any of that stuff. None of the stuff that he put up on there [were things] she said.”
Andrea DeMichael, the attorney for the other girl who was accused, released a statement to TODAY.
“My client and her family continue to send their condolences to Rebecca's family,’’ she said. “Rebecca's untimely death has illuminated the dark side of adolescent life and the powerful role social media has in today's society. This tragedy has also sparked a national discussion on how to properly address these evils that our youth are experiencing. My client and her family are relieved by the State Attorney's decision today. She is hopeful about her future and is attempting to turn this tragic event into something positive."
Katelyn's family is now considering legal action against Judd.
“Throughout this time, we were concentrating on Katelyn,’’ attorney Baez said. “However, the family is extremely disturbed and they want to look into any and every possible remedy at their disposal, so that’s something we’re going to of course look into for them. I think his conduct was reprehensible and I’m glad Katelyn has the opportunity to stand forward today and say, ‘I’m innocent.’"