Two Texas girls--ages 12 and 13--were arrested earlier this month and charged with online impersonation, a third-degree felony, for creating a fake Facebook account under the name of another student at their school.
According to the Student Press Law Center, which investigated the girls' arrest, officials in Hood County, Texas, are refusing to say whether the girls (who were arrested July 16) are still being detained. The center's reporting suggests that the girls have been behind bars for more than a week for the crime of pranking a fellow student on Facebook:
Hood County Sheriff Roger Deeds said the victim’s mother alerted authorities June 28 after she discovered the site. The victim, a girl who did not have a real Facebook page, did not know about the site until it had been active for more than a month, he said. The account had 63 friends before it was shut down.
The profile, which was seized by the sheriff’s office, displayed a photo of a celebrity that resembled the 12-year-old girl. Lt. Johnny Rose of the Hood County Sheriff’s Office said the girls made threats to other students while pretending to be the victim and “damaged the victim’s reputation.” Rose did not say what those threats entailed.
After the arrest, the girls were transported to the Granbury Regional Juvenile Justice Center.
On Wednesday, Rose said the girls were still being held at the center and were awaiting a hearing with County Court-at-Law Judge Vincent Messina. On Thursday, 10 days after the arrest, Deeds said he believed the girls had attended a hearing and were released, but he could not confirm that. He said the case is now out of the hands of the sheriff’s office.
But Messina has not held any hearings in the case, a staff member in Messina’s office said Thursday. An official from the district court in Hood County said the case had not been heard in that court.
County Attorney Kelton Conner was out of the office until Monday and could not be reached for comment.
According to the county’s website, “if sufficient evidence exists your child may possibly be placed in detention for a 10-day period, with hearings held every 10 days.”
Texas state law, however, appears to entitle juveniles to a detention hearing no later than the second working day following arrest.
As to the current location of the girls, Deeds said the only person who could confirm whether the girls have been released from the center is Beth Pate, the juvenile probation director. Deeds said Pate was on vacation the week of the arrest, and she remained unavailable for comment Thursday.
An official from the juvenile justice center hung up when asked about the girls on Thursday.
For more on the practice of locking up children and teens for non-crimes things that are illegal but should not be, see A. Barton Hinkle's recent piece on the primary school police state.