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Sex Assault Victim Savannah Dietrich's Twitter Justice

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on July 23, 2012 4:41 PM

Savannah Dietrich was upset by the plea deal struck between her attackers and prosecutors so she took to Twitter to show her frustration. In response, one of the defense attorneys moved for the court to hold her in contempt.

The attorney has since withdrawn his motion for contempt, but that doesn't change the issue that Dietrich violated a court order by publicizing the names of the defendants.

Dietrich was at a party in August 2011 where she passed out after drinking too much. Two boys that she knew took advantage of her inebriation and sexually assaulted her. Months later, she found out that they had taken pictures of the event.

The boys pled guilty to first-degree sexual assault and to misdemeanor voyeurism in a plea deal with prosecutors. Dietrich felt that the deal, the details of which are protected by court order, let the boys off lightly.

Keep in mind that the boys were juveniles at the time of the crime and were tried and convicted as juveniles, not adults.

Juvenile hearings are almost always confidential and even when juveniles are convicted their identities are generally kept private. The hope in juvenile proceedings is that offenders will be rehabilitated and then become productive members of society as adults.

Keeping their identities private means these young offenders have the opportunity to improve themselves and move on with their lives without public stigma.

Dietrich knowingly violated a court order to keep the hearing confidential because she felt the punishment the boys received was not proportional to the harm they caused her. "I'm not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell," she tweeted.

This tension between giving justice to victims and protecting the identities of juvenile criminals is becoming more common, according to Greg Leslie, interim executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Publicizing the identities of these young men violates may jeopardize their ability to rehabilitate themselves and then move past this crime in the eyes of society.

And keeping Dietrich quiet may be an unfair restraint on her speech.

Many people are upset about the attorney's contempt complaint on Dietrich's tweeting, given the response to a petition on Change.org. The petition asks the judge to drop the charges against Dietrich and accuses him of not supporting rape victims.

Savannah Dietrich's Twitter account has since been deactivated and the contempt motion has been dropped. But the issue of what to do in situations like this is just getting started. Get involved in the conversation and let us know your opinion.

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