So, two teenage boys admit to sexually assaulting a girl and circulating photos of the attack and who winds up in trouble?
Why, the victim of course — a 17-year-old Louisville girl who until Monday faced possible jail time for contempt of court.
Speaking out on Twitter about her case, in violation of the excessive secrecy that envelops Kentucky’s juvenile court system.
Lawyers for the boys had the sense this week to drop their ill-advised efforts to hold Savannah Dietrich in contempt of court after she went public with her dissatisfaction, including what she believed to be lenient treatment of the boys who await sentencing.
Now Kentucky needs to do what most states already have done and drop the rigid confidentiality laws that govern juvenile court proceedings.
Kentucky is one of only 11 states that bar any access to juvenile proceedings — the rest, including Indiana and Tennessee allow full or partial access, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Without such access, how is the public to know how the courts function and how effective they are at handling juvenile criminal cases? In this case, troubling questions have surfaced that demand answers.
For example, Miss Dietrich claims she had no say in the resolution of the case or the plea deal the Jefferson County Attorney’s office struck with the two young men. Is this true?
Who knows? Because of the confidentiality of records and closed court proceedings, we can’t tell and no one else involved is talking.
She also believes the proposed sentence is a “very, very light deal.”
Was it? Again, there’s no way to judge without access to the proceedings, an understanding of the offense and details of the sentence the teens are facing.
Efforts by the boys’ lawyers to keep a lid on the case clearly backfired.
After Courier-Journal reporter Jason Riley broke the story about the contempt proceedings, it went viral on websites and news outlets around the world, attracting many comments of outrage about Miss Dietrich’s treatment.
David Mejia, a lawyer for one of the boys, complained about the publicity, saying the confidentiality of juvenile court in part is meant to protect the victim.
No, it’s not, Mr. Mejia.
It’s about protecting the system.
The victim in this case came forward, agreeing to be identified, even though this newspaper and most news outlets routinely don’t identify sexual assault victims.
Kentucky needs to join most other states and open this secret system.