A Kentucky district court judge ruled today that she will open the juvenile court records surrounding the sexual assault of 17-year-old Savannah Dietrich and the filings to hold her in contempt for tweeting the names of her abusers.
Jefferson District Court Chief Judge Angela McCormick Bisig ruled that "the very idea that a young victim of sexual assault would find the courage to tell her story and come to court, only to have no one listen to her, explain to her what is happening and then have the parties reach some type of deal without her input is abhorrent. The public would and should cry foul."
Dietrich, her lawyers and the Louisville Courier-Journal, which first reported the judge's decision, fought for weeks to unseal the court records, allowing the Louisville teenager, her family and anyone else involved to talk freely about the case.
"It's a relief," Dietrich told reporters at a press conference after the ruling. "I've had to keep this in so, so long, and it's definitely been an uphill battle but it's been worth it and I'm just glad I can share my story... I've given voices to other victims and that's really touched me."
Bisig also ruled that future court hearings surrounding the case would also be open, the Courier-Journal noted. In her decision, Bisig wrote that the "antiseptic of the truth and openness" would benefit all parties involved in the case, and said "there is more in favor of opening the court than mere public's desire to know."
Dietrich broke her silence to "Nightline" earlier this month, in what was her first network interview, to describe what happened when she tried to avenge her tainted reputation and set in motion a cautionary tale, mixed with teen drinking and sexual abuse in an age of instant, global, viral media.
During a night of underage drinking, two boys took cell phone photos as they sexually assaulted Dietrich while she was passed out. Dietrich said she didn't fully know what had happened to her until months later after the boys shared the photos and she confronted them.
"They told me that it was me on the kitchen floor, passed out, my eyes are closed," she told "Nightline." "My clothes are -- I'm exposed. Someone said one boy had his arm broken at the time and said his cast was in the picture."
On June 26, the two boys confessed to felony sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism, but because they are all juveniles -- the boys were 16 years old at the time -- the court records were kept confidential, meaning the charges, the boys' identities and their punishment stayed secret.
Kentucky is one of just 11 states where records are sealed for underage court cases. The boys' lawyers also fought to keep the court records closed.
So Dietrich poured her heart out on social media, tweeting to her 200 followers on Twitter about what happened to her, including the boys' names, and complained she felt their punishment was too lenient, even though she knew it meant she could be found in contempt of court and face jail time.
"I was upset," Dietrich said. "I felt like they got less than the minimal punishment... I knew that they were manipulating the system to silence me."
David Mejia, one of the boys' lawyers, filed a contempt motion against Dietrich, and she faced 180 days in jail for violating the confidentiality of the juvenile court. Mejia said the contempt motion was not to jail or punish Dietrich, but to have a judge force her to delete the tweet with his client's name and stop her from posting.
"I was hoping she would even have some remorse or an apology to give," he told "Nightline." "That didn't happen."
Instead, press coverage of Dietrich's plight went viral and began trending on the blogosphere. Dietrich's online petition to have the contempt charges dropped received 50,000 signatures within 24 hours, making it one of the fastest growing petitions on Change.org.
As a result, the boys' lawyers withdrew the contempt motion, but not before there was a tidal wave of backlash against the two boys.
"It has been just more incredibly difficult than I can describe going from just living this high school boy life, student athlete, popular kid, to suddenly having his name all over the country described as a rapist which isn't even the charge," Mejia said of his client. "He has gotten contacts, calls, letters. He's been threatened and it's absolutely just destroyed whatever normal life he had."
The boys will be sentenced on Sept. 14.