California’s Assembly Public Safety Committee has postponed the vote for Audrie Pott’s Law to pass to the fiscal committee that was supposed to be scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Sheila Pott and her attorney Robert Allard have been fighting since 2012 for a new law to pass in California. Her daughter, Audrie Pott, committed suicide after being ridiculed by her classmates for being sexually assaulted at a party. She was unconscious at the time of the incident. The potential new law in California, SB 838, will also be known as “Audrie’s Law.”
Audrie Pott was the victim of sexual assault by three teenage boys while being unconscious. This was followed by episodes of cyberbullying from her various classmates at Saratoga High School. A number of students who were at that same party took pictures and a video that surfaced both on the internet and other student’s cell phones following that night. It is also recorded that teens drew on her as she remained unconscious and partially naked, and those images surfaced as well. Pott was only 15 when her father, Lawrence Pott, found that she had hanged herself in her mother’s Los Altos home.
Pott’s Facebook page expressed how depressed and ruined she felt once her classmates caught sight of the images. This resulted in a suicide that some have claimed was caused by intensified cyberbullying. Since then, an online petition in favor of the law currently has 139,773 signatures in hopes to pass Audrie’s Law.
The three teens were only sentenced to 30 to 45 days under juvenile custody as they pleaded guilty in 2012. They were only sentenced to a maximum of 45 days as the current state law in California points out that sexually assaulting someone while unconscious is less serious than if they were conscious. Her mother decided to fight back for justice for her only daughter.
Sheila Pott has worked endlessly in hopes to prevent other teens, both male and female, from taking their life due to sexual assault. Since 2012, State Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose, has sponsored SB 838. Both he and Sheila Pott were disappointed as the vote for a law dedicated to Audrie Pott was postponed on Tuesday. SB 838 would require that juveniles who are convicted of sexually assaulting a person while unconscious or developmentally disabled must serve a mandatory minimum of two years in juvenile custody.
The vote that was supposed to take place on Tuesday would have determined whether or not SB 838 would pass on to a fiscal committee. If the vote concluded in 4-3 in favor for SB 838, this would allow the law to proceed to the full Assembly. From there, the law would need a two-thirds vote for Audrie’s Law to officially pass.
It has been an uphill battle to move the bill forward. California’s Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice opposes the potential bill. Various representatives claimed that SB 838 would be ineffective and would go against their goals of rehabilitation and holding minors accountable for their actions as juveniles, not adults. The mandatory minimum sentence of two years would be the first mandatory sentencing law in California’s Juvenile Justice System.
Audrie’s Law has also been reviewed by psychiatric experts, some of whom have concluded that the mandatory sentencing of juveniles for sexual assaulting another minor while disabled or unconscious is too intense for a minor. As a teen’s brain is still developing, neuroscience and various other brain research has shown that a teen’s brain cannot be compared to that of an adult sex offender’s brain.
The Pott family, Sen. Jim Beall and Robert Allard are working on a compromise in the law in that addresses the concerns of critics. A law dedicated to Audrie Pott will need to be brought back next week and garner broader support in favor of the law as the vote was postponed in California. Sheila Pott, who lost her daughter due to cyberbullying is looking for more than justice. She is hoping to protect other parents from this trauma and protect victims of sexual assault so that they will not suffer the same pain her daughter once did.
By Tricia Manalansan