Eight teens accused of taking part in a shocking videotaped beating of a 16-year-old girl will be tried as adults, according to Florida officials.
The teens, who are between the ages 14 and 18, face kidnapping and misdemeanor battery charges. Three also face a felony charge of witness tampering.
The teens charged in the case are Cara Murphy, 16; Britney Mayes, 17; Kayla Hassell, 15; Zachary Ashley, 17; Brittini Hardcastle, 17; Mercades Nichols, 17; April Cooper, 14; and Stephen Schumaker, 18.
A judge set bail Friday for each at $30,000 during their first court appearance.
The judge also issued a gag order requiring everyone involved to not speak about the case, according to the Associated Press.
Tape Hits the Internet
In the videotape, released earlier this week by the Polk County Sheriff's Department, the 16-year-old victim was literally backed into a corner as fellow teens screamed at her, threatened her and ultimately beat her unconscious.
Two teenage males stood "lookout" as the high school cheerleader, a guest at the house where the beating allegedly occurred, is intermittently berated and pummeled by peers, according to authorities in Florida,
When the 35-minute beating is done, the girl was allegedly forced into a car and dumped at another friend's house. She is told to keep her mouth shut — or else the next beating will be worse, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
"They lured her into the home for the express purpose of filming the attack and posting it on the Internet," Judd said. "This is outrageous behavior."
Judd released video Monday afternoon that captured three minutes of the March 30 beating inside the Lakeland, Fla., home of Mercades Nichols, 17. He also announced the arrest of eight teenagers ranging in age from 14 to 18, including Nichols.
The eight face felony battery and false imprisonment charges tied to the attack caught on tape and posted online for the world — and law enforcement — to see. The three teens accused of dumping the victim after the beating also face an additional felony kidnapping charge. Judd said he will urge the state prosecutor's office to charge all of the teens except the 14-year-old as adults.
"It's fair to say we were absolutely mortified when we saw these girls beating down this victim," Judd said. His intention in releasing the video was not to give the teenagers the fame they wanted, he added, but to educate parents about the type of behavior children may be involved in.
"They're paying a terrible penalty for getting what they wanted," Judd said, describing the teens' behavior as a "pack" mentality.
At one point during the beating, the target of the attack entered a bedroom, according to authorities and the raw video, and was met by another suspect, 14-year-old April Cooper. Cooper had been hiding and emerged, allegedly striking the teen several times in the face and then knocking the victim unconscious.
She then awoke on a couch surrounded by a ring of six girls who allegedly attacked her as a gang and prevented her from fleeing. "At one point in the video, it is plain to see the suspects blocked the victim from leaving the residence," according to the sheriff's office news release.
Two male suspects, both also from Lakeland, acted as lookouts during the attack, according to the sheriff's office.
When she finally was freed, the victim was taken to the Lakeland Regional Medical Center by ambulance for a concussion and damage to the left side of her face and head, according to authorities.
"When I saw my daughter in the emergency room, I didn't even recognize my own daughter," the teen's father, Patrick Lindsay, said during a news conference Monday with his wife, Talisa.
The couple lashed out at Web sites like MySpace and YouTube that they say provide forums for posting videos that desensitize teens to criminal behavior. "Now, if they can create the best shock video, they're the heroes," the victim's father said. "She just didn't deserve to be beaten like a dog."
The high school student has had to make return trips to the doctor and is having nightmares, her mother said. She has yet not returned to school.
In one local report, Stephen Schumaker, 18, the only adult charged in the beating who allegedly stood watch outside the house with another male, denied doing anything wrong after he posted bail. "I had to spend two nights in jail for something I didn't do," Schumaker reportedly said.
But authorities say the video footage meant to celebrate the teen's beating tells the true story -- and the other suspects remain locked up.
If convicted of the battery and false imprisonment charges, the teenagers could be sentenced to up to 10 years each in state prison. The additional kidnapping charge three of the teenagers face could earn another 15 years behind bars.