SARATOGA, Calif. (AP) — Juveniles who sexually assault unconscious victims could be tried as adults under proposed California legislation brought in response to the suicide of a 15-year-old girl who was sexually battered while passed out at a party then humiliated by photos circulated to classmates.
The amendment was announced Friday as part of a package of legal changes brought by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose. It seeks to close a loophole that makes it a less serious crime to rape someone who is unconscious or mentally incapacitated than someone who is of a clear mind.
The changes also include a cyberbullying statute that would make it a felony to share obscene or sexual photos of young people or their body parts on social media or smartphones to harass or bully them.
"To me, whether you rape someone or ply them with alcohol and then rape them, they're both disgusting and despicable acts which I think should be handled in adult court," said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who helped draft the legislation.
In 2012, Audrie Pott fell asleep after drinking Gatorade laced with alcohol at a friend's party in their hometown of Saratoga. She awoke to find her pants off and lewd comments scribbled over her body.
Her family says she hanged herself days later after learning cellphone photos of her taken during the assault were circulated.
"My life is ruined," she wrote on her Facebook page. "The whole school knows."
Flanked by large photos of her daughter, Audrie's mother, Sheila Pott, said the changes are critical to cracking down on assaults and cyberbullying among teens.
"We don't want to lose any more of our children to this epidemic," she said.