STEUBENVILLE - Attorneys representing two girls who were accused of sending threatening tweets to a 16-year-old Weirton rape victim said Wednesday their clients "learned a valuable lesson."
The two Steubenville High School students who used social media to send the tweets entered guilty pleas Thursday morning to a telecommunication harassment misdemeanor and were placed on probation for six months.
The girls also were sentenced by Jefferson County Juvenile Court Judge Samuel Kerr to 30 days in juvenile detention, but the judge suspended the sentence in favor of the probation and 40 hours of community service.
The pair have never been publicly identified by the juvenile court.
Attorney Francesca Carinci, who represented one of the girls, called the sentencing "a fair and reasonable decision by the court in light of the circumstances."
"These girls are now aware this was against the law. This was not a harsh sentence and they both learned a very valuable lesson,"said Carinci.
Sara Gasser represented the other juvenile.
"This was the right decision today. I am confident my client will be successful in putting this behind her," said Gasser.
The two girls initially were charged with felony intimidation of a witness, aggravated menacing and telecommunication harassment.
The intimidation of a witness and aggravated menacing charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
The girls, through their attorneys, officially denied the charges during a court appearance in March.
Both defendants told the judge Thursday they "made bad tweets."
They were arrested by city police on March 18, the day after visiting juvenile Judge Tom Lipps found Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville and Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale delinquent of charges or rape. Mays also was found guilty of a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material for allegedly having a picture of the 16-year-old victim in an outgoing text message on his cell phone.
Law enforcement officials said the tweets had been posted on social media within minutes of the sentencing.
Assistant Prosecutor Samuel Pate said he was satisfied with the plea agreement and the statements made Thursday by the two.
The judge also agreed to release the confiscated cell phones to the girls.
According to Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, one girl tweeted, "going to celebrate by beating the s-- out of *****, while the other girl tweeted, "You ripped my family apart. You made my cousin cry, so when I see you it's going to be homicide."
Pate said the girls faced a minimum of six months in a state juvenile facility if found delinquent of the charges, but Pate said there is a variety of sentencing options.
He said rehabilitation is paramount in the juvenile justice system.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)