Police have announced that they will not be prosecuting the kids who bullied Jamey Rodemeyer, the fourteen year-old New Yorker who took his own life in September following what his family and friends say was a sustained campaign of bullying over his perceived sexual orientation.
Following Jamey’s tragic suicide, made worse for the fact that Jamey had only fairly recently recorded an It Gets Better video, Amherst Police Chief John Askey said the unit would be launching a full and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding Jamey’s death.
However on Tuesday of this week Askey announced that he would be closing this case because, among other things, the ages of Rodemeyer’s bullies mean their actions are not prosecutable under the law.
Askey admitted to being disappointed at being unable to send a stronger message that bullying and harassment is intolerable.
“I would have liked to have arrested someone for this,” he said of a case that has gained national attention, but “we can’t make a case when the proof necessary to prosecute it isn’t there.”
Police investigated a total of seven bullying incidents involving Jamey, the chief said, two of which occurred at Heim Middle School and five at Williamsville North.
But no charges will be brought forward because all of the alleged perpetrators were juvenile classmates, either 14 or 15 years old, who could not be held criminally accountable for what would be considered violations — not even misdemeanors — had they been adults.
Other potential charges were dismissed, Askey said, on grounds that second and third party accounts of Jamey being bullied were not strong enough to be actionable. He also said that a lack of victim testimony compounds the difficulty in bringing charges.
“Jamey is no longer with us,” Askey said. “He can’t testify on his own behalf.
“I can assume – the public can assume – but we don’t have a victim,” he added. “We don’t have a statement from Jamey. He’s not part of the prosecution. That’s a huge element of proof that’s missing from this case.”
In addition, some of the incidents occurred years ago when Rodemeyer was still in middle school and do not fall into the statute of limitations.
None of the alleged incidents of bullying involved threats, Askey said.
“The police department specifically spent a lot of time investigating this,” said Askey.
“We took it very seriously and we’ve done everything that we could do,” he added.
You can see a clip of Askey’s press conference below where he protests the notion that Jamey’s bullies have simply been let off the hook by this decision:
You can head over to Buffalo News to view the full thing which outlines in more detail why Jamey’s bullies will not be prosecuted.
As many readers will know Jamey was a Lady Gaga fan and following news of Jamey’s death the pop superstar was moved to action over this cause, meeting with President Obama to discuss the issue and later launching the Born This Way Foundation to combat bullying and inspire young people to embrace individuality.
Jamey’s suicide also prompted New York State Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx) to introduce legislation that would modernize New York’s anti-bullying laws. In particular his legislation is designed to make tackling cyber bullying easier. Current laws do not necessarily cover this form of harassment. The legislation would, among other things, expand the charge of Second-Degree Manslaughter (a Class C Felony) to include “bullycide.” The term is defined as when a person engages in cyberbullying and intentionally causes the victim to commit suicide.
Jamey took to the Internet and blogged about a number of bullying incidents. It was on those very posts that several individuals had in fact made comments that Jamey should end his own life, though no direct threats of wanting to harm Jamey were ever reported.
A school investigation remains ongoing.
Whether Jamey’s parents will launch court proceedings over their son’s death is not known at this time.