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Savannah Dietrich Confronts Attackers While Testifying In Kentucky Courtroom

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A judge heard Friday from Savannah Dietrich, a 17-year-old sexual assault victim who identified her attackers on Twitter despite a gag order because she thought their plea deal was lenient.
A judge heard Friday from Savannah Dietrich, a 17-year-old sexual assault victim who identified her attackers on Twitter despite a gag order because she thought their plea deal was lenient.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A judge sentenced two Kentucky teenagers on Friday to community service and sex offender treatment for sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl who later identified her attackers on Twitter.

Savannah Dietrich posted the boys' names on Twitter despite a gag order because she thought the initial plea deal in June was too lenient. She said she also was unaware a deal had been reached until just before it was announced.

Jefferson County District Judge Angela McCormick Bisig slightly altered the initial deal, saying the pair, now 17 years old, may seek to have the sexual assault charges reduced when they are 21. The previous agreement expunged their record automatically before they turned 20.

The judge also ordered them to surrender the names of anyone who saw semi-nude photos of an unconscious Dietrich, something she had wanted all along. The teens said the assault occurred after a night of drinking in August 2011.

After the judge announced the sentence, a composed Dietrich said she was satisfied and will walk away a smarter person. She doubted her attackers understand the impact of their actions.

"I'm not sure it meant anything to them," Dietrich said. "I hope one day they'll understand the situation."

The Associated Press does not generally identify victims of sexual assault, but Dietrich and her parents wanted her story public. The names of the two attackers have not been disclosed because the case has been handled in juvenile court.

During the hearing, Dietrich said she considered suicide after the assault.

"I was in so much pain, death seemed like a friendly thought to me," she said.

The assault gained public attention when Dietrich tweeted the names of the boys against a judge's orders not to discuss the case. Defense attorneys had asked a judge to consider a contempt charge for Dietrich, but dropped their request.

Juvenile proceedings in Kentucky are normally closed to the public, but The Courier-Journal successfully fought to open the case and the court records.

On Friday, Dietrich read from a statement for more than 15 minutes as her attackers sat at a table, one looking down; the other staring straight ahead. Neither spoke publicly during the proceeding.

Dietrich at times addressed her attackers directly. At other times, her hands visibly shaking, Dietrich faced the judge and unleashed her frustrations about the case.

"I couldn't even cry myself to sleep," Dietrich said. "I hardly got any sleep."

Dietrich said she only wanted an apology and a list of people who were shown the partially-nude photos of her taken the night of the assault.

When she got neither, Dietrich said, she went to the police and filed the criminal case. After that, Dietrich said, the two boys and their families began badmouthing her to friends and family members.

"Not only would you not own up to and admit to your actions, you blamed me," Dietrich said.

Assistant County Attorney Julie Hardesty told Dietrich during closing arguments that she was brave for reporting the attack and going through with the prosecution.

"We have admired your strength and we have admired your poise," Hardesty said.

In interviews with Louisville Metro Police in February, the two boys told detectives that they were drinking with Dietrich and a few other people at her home last August when they were left alone with the heavily intoxicated teen.

They told police they assaulted Dietrich because "we thought it would be funny, but it wasn't."

Chris Klein, the attorney for one of the attackers, read a letter his client wrote, apologizing and acknowledging what he did was wrong.

"I still can't believe I was foolish enough to use such bad judgment," Klein read from the letter.

Both teens were students at the all-boys Trinity High School in Louisville at the time of the assault. Attorneys said both now attend other schools. One of the teens has since moved with his family to a new neighborhood.

David Mejia, the attorney for the other teen, said his client feels bad about the assault, but didn't send the photos to anyone. Since the plea became public, Mejia said, his client has faced death threats.

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Follow Barrouquere on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBarrouquereAP

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