SEATTLE, Washington ~ (Seattle Times) ~ Two preteen girls accused of hacking into a classmate's Facebook page have been charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing.
The two girls, aged 11 and 12, have been under investigation since the alleged victim's family contacted Issaquah Police on March 18th. The Seattle Times generally doesn't list names of juveniles charged with crimes. According to the charges, filed on March 26th in King County Juvenile Court, the two defendants used the victim's Facebook password information to gain access to her account and post sexually explicit content on her page, including messages indicating she would perform sexual acts on people. The defendants, posing as the vidtim, also messaged some boys to arrange dates where sex acts would be performed, according to the charges.
John Knight, stepfather to the 12-year-old alleged victim, says his family is relieved that the case has resulted in criminal charges. He said he wasn't taken seriously when he reported the incident to Issaquah Police and the staff at Issaquah Middle School. Knight also said his stepdaughter, Leslie Cote, has asked the media to publish her name in hopes of bringing focus on the issue of cyberstalking.
Prosecutors report that Issaquah Police were called to the Cote-Knight residence on March 18th after the victim's mother, Tara Cote, reported vulgar postings on her daughter's Facebook page. A woman who mentored Leslie told the family she had noticed changes made to photos of Leslie, including "devil's horns" and the words "I'm a slut" scrawled across the image. The alterations and postings became more vulgar as the night progressed.
Details in the court charges state that Leslie had been visiting a defendant's house in early March when she logged into Facebook; the girl's computer stored her account password information. After the girls had a falling out, the defendants hacked into the page "with the intent of embarrassing and tormenting the victim," Issaquah police Detective Ryan Raulerson wrote in the affidavit of probable cause filed to support the charges.
Issaquah School District spokeswoman Sara Niegowski said the district was not conducting a separate investigation into the incident because it didn't occur on school property. She said the defendants are still enrolled in classes, and, "this incident happened off-campus, off school time and not related to our school environments. There is no disciplinary action at all. It's not a school district incident," Niegowski said. Knight said that his stepdaughter has been granted a restraining order forbidding the defendants from contacting her and barring them from riding her school bus. The three girls are in some of the same classes.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said, "This case reveals the dark side of social media sites used by young people." In a press release, Satterberg wrote: "Many kids think that on a social media site that their actions will be anonymous and that they are free to use it as weapon to bully, harass, and intimidate another person. This case demonstrates that assuming the identity of another person on the Internet with the intent to torment them and expose them to the harassment of others is a crime."