A pre-trial hearing for one of two girls accused in the bullying and subsequent suicide of a Polk County girl was held on Friday morning.
Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death at an abandoned Lakeland cement factory last month. Investigators say she had been bullied online by a then-12-year-old and a 14-year-old who have both been charged with stalking.
The younger of the two, now age 13, appeared in a Polk County courtroom around 8:30 a.m. A judge ordered that, although on home confinement, she can go in her yard. And even though she was banned from using electronics after her arrest she can now use a computer for school.
The girl is being represented by attorney Jose Baez. Shortly after Friday's court proceedings, he talked to the media for the first time about his client, saying she is a victim too.
"She feels absolutely horrible for what happened to Rebecca," he said. "She is not what her mug shot is portraying her to be. She is a child. I am not going to allow her to be bullied or the system to bully her."
Baez said law enforcement should have never plastered her picture and name for everyone to see. Many news organizations did show their faces. FOX 35 is not naming the girl or showing her face, because she is a minor.
"Law enforcement and their 'PR' machine has not pulled any punches as it relates to the conduct of these two girls," he said. "Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think I am. I am pretty thorough, and I have not seen anything that rises to the level of criminal conduct."
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd responded afterwards, defending his actions and offering Baez a piece of advice -- to get his client the help she needs to make sure nothing like this happens again.
"That defense attorney, rather than trying to say she didn't do anything wrong after we have pages of data and witnesses, needs to say, 'Lets work with the State Attorney in the best interest,'" said Judd.
Rebecca Sedwick's mother has said she is trying to bring something good out of something so tragic. Tricia Norman told reporters on Thursday, "A bit of me is angry."
Norman hopes to launch an anti-bullying campaign. She has set up a website to cover her daughter's funeral expenses, and any money raised above that amount, she said, will be donated to the anti-bullying cause.
In her quest for justice, Norman has retained the services of attorney David Henry, the managing partner at the law firm Morgan & Morgan's Winter Haven office. Potential defendants in the case have not been named.
"We have a few people and entities we are looking at. We have some children that unfortunately didn't act like children. They acted like mean-spirited adults," said Henry.