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Girl Accused in Polk Bullying Case Plans to Sue

The Ledger
The Ledger

Lawyers for a 13-year-old girl accused of bullying a classmate have filed notice that they intend to sue Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and his office.

WTSP reports the family accuses the Sheriff's Office of defamation and invasion of privacy, saying Judd had no probable cause to arrest the girl last year.

The girl, who is not being named by WUSF or The Associated Press, was one of two girls arrested in connection with the suicide death of 12-year-old classmate Rebecca Sedwick. The State Attorney's Office declined to file charges.

Lawyers for the girl say the sheriff's treatment of her caused severe emotional and psychological trauma.

Sedwick's mother filed her own lawsuit against the Polk County School Board, a construction materials company and one of the two girls accused of bullying her daughter last month.

Tricia Norman is seeking more than $15,000. She alleges, among other things, that the School Board didn't properly supervise the girl accused of stalking her daughter, and she accuses the construction company of negligent maintenance.

WTSP says Judd's office issued a statement after the latest lawsuit was announced.

"We look forward to vigorously defending the Polk County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Grady Judd from allegations that the Sheriff and agency provided public record documents and information from public records in their custody to the general public and to the news media.

"We will defend the public's right to know about felony arrests and be educated and informed about the dangers of bullying in our schools and communities. We will defend Florida's public records law that allows public access to information and documents and encourages openness and transparency in matters of public concern, such as the unfortunate death of Rebecca Sedwick, felony criminal charges, and bullying. We will defend the public's access to arrest affidavits expressly made public by Florida Statutes. And, we defend the news media's right and editorial judgment to print and broadcast public information provided about death investigations, criminal cases, and important issues such as bullying found in the public record so that they can inform the public of issues and events that are both newsworthy and in the public's interest to know.

"We find it curious why there have been no lawsuits filed by the plaintiff, or notices of lawsuits, that we are aware of, against news media organizations who actively sought out and reported information from the public record and from many other sources regarding the death investigation of Rebecca Sedwick and the criminal case in question."

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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