Bartow, Florida -- The lawyer for the 12-year-old girl accused of stalking former classmate Rebecca Sedwick told reporters Friday he will not let his client be bullied by the justice system.
Jose Baez said while he admires Sheriff Grady Judd for bringing attention to bullying, it shouldn't be at the expense of a child- a child who he claims is now being bullied by Sheriff Judd and others since the story gained national attention.
"She is not what the mug shot and headlines are portraying her to be," Baez said. "She is a child. I'm not going to allow her to be bullied or the system to bully her."
He said he has not seen any evidence linking his client to the online bullying statements telling Rebecca to kill herself, and that she is as much a victim as she is a defendant. He added that she feels "absolutely horrible" about what happened to Rebecca.
Baez said his client should not be lumped together, in the eyes of the media and public, with the other teen charged in Rebecca's death.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, however, said Friday the evidence proves otherwise, and that investigators have witness accounts, and pages and pages of statements made by both girls, including Baez's client, leading to the bullying.
"Why does a flashy attorney drive across the state to represent a juvenile in juvenile court on a case that will be worked out, or should be worked out anyway? She's already taken responsibility," Judd said.
Judd was referring to other key pieces of evidence in the case- pages of Facebook conversations where the teen admits to bullying Rebecca at school and online. He read one of the teen's statements out loud to the press.
"Yes, I'm bully. I deserve to die. I wish it were me not her."
The 12-year-old girl at the time of charge is now 13, according to Judd. Baez said she's had a troubled past and, like any child, is vulnerable.
"This is a tragic, tragic story we don't need any more tragedy," Baez said.
However, Judd said Baez should stop trying to deflect the teen's responsibility, get together with the state prosecutor and try to work out something that's actually best for his client.
"Mr. Baez, my message to you is to get over trying to show she didn't do something she did, and start trying to help that child..." Judd said. "She has the opportunity to be a person who helps solve bullying instead of creating [it]."
Baez stood with the girl at her arraignment hearing Friday morning as prosecutors asked for more time to review "voluminous" investigative reports. Her hearing was continued until Tuesday, the same day the 14-year-old girl also charged with stalking Rebecca is scheduled to be arraigned.
In the meantime, the judge loosened her home detention to allow for going out into the yard and to church. The teen has been suspended from school. The judge also said she can have supervised use of a computer for educational purposes only.
You can read more about your school district's bullying policy by clicking the links below:
Bullying Prevention tips from the FL Department of Education
SafeCircles- Tricia Norman launches online social media site that protects registered users from bullying. Click here for a tutorial.
Rebecca Sedwick, 12, took her own life because of bullying
Photos: Rebecca Sedwick's story
Bullied girl would have turned 13 Saturday
Arrests made: 2 girls arrested after bullying victim's suicide
Mom of teen facing charges in bullying suicide is arrested
Some parents not pleased with bullying suicide arrests
Rebecca's mom speaks after teen arrests in bullying suicide case
Sedwick's former boyfriend: Speak up if you see bullying
Mother says school district could have done more to stop bullying
Why didn't new cyberbullying law help Rebecca?
Mom criticizes school district's bullying policy
Polk Sheriff proposes civil process to punish bullies