Transcript for Former Dairy Queen manager charged with manslaughter in employee's suicide
We are back now with that groundbreaking bullying case. A Missouri dairy queen manager charged with the death of one of her employees after he took his own life. ABC's Mara schiavocampo is here with much more on this. A lot of people are watching this. It's a very important case, robin. That manager facing four years in prison if convicted. She was charged after the coroner called for an investigation. Witnesses testifying that she bullied the victim for months leading him to suicide. Just days before Christmas, 17-year-old Kenny suttner took his own life. Now this morning, his former boss is facing what's believed to be unprecedented manslaughter charges over his suicide. Prosecutors accusing her of essentially bullying him to death. Each witness was able to testify to different and specific instances in which they had knowledge of Kenny being bullied. Reporter: Suttner worked at this fayette, Missouri, dairy queen where prosecutors say his 21-year-old supervisor Harley Branham subjected him to constant harassment. His friends saying the teen was also bullied for years at his high school, all of the humiliation, they say, finally driving him to suicide. After his death, the coroner making the rare move to call an official inquest, a public hearing with a six-person jury to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. Proving that someone else led a person up to that act, most of the time you see that there's direct evidence and that does make this very different. Reporter: Several co-workers testified that suttner was a target because of his weight and a speech impediment alleging Branham constantly ridiculed him once reportedly forcing him to lie flat on his stomach and clean the floor by hand. The coroner taking just an hour to conclude Branham was the principal in the cause of death charging her with second-degree involuntary manslaughter saying she acted with criminal negligence by harassing Kenneth suttner. She denied bullying suttner testifying during the inquest there's a lot of people at dairy queen saying I was the reason. But I don't understand why it would be that way. We look forward to the opportunity to present additional evidence and reviewing the evidence that the state intends to present in court. Reporter: Suttner's family issuing this statement Tuesday saying, it's long overdue that the issue of bullying be brought to light. This has given them a peace that Kenny's voice has been heard. Reporter: In response to that inquest the school district says they were not permitted to fairly defend themselves at the hearing. As for the dairy queen's role in this case in a statement to ABC news they noted that location is an independently owned and operated franchise, robin. Mara, thank you. Our chief legal analyst Dan Abrams joins us. The degree second degree involuntary manslaughter. Does that include bullying? Look, typically these are the kind of cases that end up in civil court, not criminal court. And what they're saying here is that she caused the death, that's going to be the legal question. Negligently causing the death. The defense, of course, is going to say, wait a sec. There were all these other people bullying him and you're pointing the finger at her saying she caused him to commit suicide. That's going to be the challenge. That's why this could be a precedent-setting case. How do you go about prosecuting it? You talk about how awful it was for this kid. You talk about what they did in this coroner's inquest meaning they want to get the jury so angry at this person to say, this isn't Normal. This isn't typical bullying. This isn't the sort of thing you hear about. This was so bad it was so different that it led him to take his own life and, you know what, someone like her should have known it could lead to something like this. A lot of people are watching this case. A lot because this -- you want to talk about sending a message about bullying. Using the criminal courts to send a message like this, you can talk about administrative, you can talk about new rules in schools, when you're talking about charging someone with second degree involuntary manslaughter, you are sending the ultimate message. It does mean this is going to be an easy case to win. People are taking notice. Yeah. All right, Dan, thank you very much.
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