Two preteen US girls accused of hacking into a classmate's Facebook page and posting sexually explicit photos and messages have been charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing.
The girls, ages 11 and 12, have been under investigation since the alleged victim's family contacted Issaquah police in Washington state on March 18, according to the charges filed in King County Juvenile Court. According to the charges, the two defendants used the victim's password information to post sexually explicit content on her Facebook page.
They also posted messages that indicated the victim was willing to perform sex acts on people.
The defendants instant-messaged some boys to arrange dates where sex acts were to be performed by the victim, according to the charges.
Jon Knight, the stepfather of the 12-year-old alleged victim, said his family is relieved that the case has resulted in criminal charges. He said that he wasn't taken seriously when he reported the incident to Issaquah police and to staff at Issaquah Middle School.
Knight said her stepdaughter, Leslie Cote, has asked the media to use her name in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of cyberstalking.
Issaquah police were called to the Cote-Knight home on March 18 after Leslie's mother, Tara Cote, called to report vulgar postings on her daughter's Facebook page, charges said. A woman who mentored Leslie told the family that she had noticed photos on the page had been changed to show Leslie with "devil's horns" and with the words "I'm a slut" scrawled across one image, prosecutors said.
The alterations and postings apparently became more vulgar as the night progressed.
Prosecutors said that Leslie had been over at a defendant's house in early March when she logged into Facebook. Leslie's password information was somehow stored on the other girl's computer.
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.
Sara Niegowski, spokeswoman for the Issaquah School District, said Tuesday the district was not conducting its own investigation into the incident because it did not occur on school property. She said the defendants are still enrolled at Issaquah Middle School.
"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.
Niegowski said that the incident has not been a disruption at the school.
"You know what's a disruption is the media coverage," she said. "We always look out for the welfare of our students."
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, Knight said.
On Tuesday, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said, "This case reveals the dark side of social media sites used by young people."
In a news 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."