California: Lawsuit planned after alleged rape victim's suicide
By Jason Hanna and Ashley Fantz
(CNN) -- The family of Audrie Pott, a California teenager who allegedly was raped and then committed suicide in September, intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the family's lawyer told reporters Monday.
Three boys were arrested last week in connection with the case, accused of assaulting the 15-year-old girl, taking photos of the attack, posting the pictures online and sharing them at school.
The boys are all 16, according to authorities.
"We intend to prove in court of law, that their actions ... broke her. She couldn't handle it, and she did the worst thing a parent can imagine -- she took her life," said Robert Allard, attorney for Pott's father, mother and stepmother.
Authorities say the three boys are accused of raping Pott at an unsupervised house party in Saratoga, California, in early September. Pott had too much to drink at the party and passed out before the attack, Santa Clara County sheriff's detectives say.
She took her own life seven days later, after learning that schoolmates had seen at least one photograph of the attack, Allard said.
The three unidentified boys face two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge of sexual battery, Santa Clara Sheriff's Office spokesman Jose Cardoza said last week.
Formal charges have not been filed.
During Monday's press conference, Pott's mother, father and stepmother repeatedly stressed they wanted the 16-year-olds arrested to be referred to as "young men" due to the gravity of the allegations.
Allard said that the parents who own the home where the alcohol was allegedly consumed will be made defendants in the wrongful death suit. Those parents were out of town but teens had access to a liquor cabinet, Allard said.
The case is similar to one that played out in court this year in Steubenville, Ohio, where two star football players were convicted of rape for assaulting a girl who had too much to drink. Images in that case were posted on social media sites.
In the California case, the boys are accused of taking photos of the attack and sharing them at school, as well as texting them and posting them online.
After learning that photos had been posted on the Internet, Pott wrote in an online post that her life was ruined. She took her own life a few days later.
During Monday's press conference, stepmother Lisa Pott read messages that the family found on the teen's Facebook page after her suicide. Lisa Pott quoted the girl as writing:
"My life is ruined."
"I can't do anything to fix it."
"I just want this to go away."
"The whole school knows."
"I have a reputation I can never get rid of."
"The boys can die in a hole for all I care."
"They knew how bad I was."
"I don't want to remember."
"I have a reputation for a night I don't even remember."
Lisa Pott told reporters, "(Audrie) made her feelings clear in the messages (we) were left to find. The three people who were arrested are responsible for her death."
Larry Pott said that he wanted other high school students who might know what happened to his daughter -- including those who were witnesses -- to speak up.
"Come forward," he said. "Do the right thing."
He choked up when he spoke about losing his daughter. He explained that the Pott family decided to make Audrie's name public so that "in some small way ... her story and death could help others."
"She was so full of life, there was no denying when Audrie walked into a room. She would light it up, always," he said. "Audrie filled our house with family and laughter."
She was witty, her dad said, and loved soccer and the outdoors.
"She was sweet and she was kind," he said.
"We miss her every day."
The morning after
Earlier, Lauren Cerri, a Pott family attorney, told CNN affiliate KGO that the teen "had no idea what occurred until she woke up the following morning and had some drawings on her body and in some private areas."
A fellow student told KGO that along with the shock of Pott's death, there was chatter about who was involved and how they remained in school.
"That it took that long (for an arrest) was pretty ridiculous," Samir Ingle told KGO. "It was maybe half a year. I find that really, really disturbing."
In the Steubenville case, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl who had had too much to drink.
That trial gained media attention for its lurid text messages, cell phone pictures and videos, and social media posts surrounding the sexual abuse of the girl.
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