Sources say that 'around 10 students' saw illicit photos of Audrie Pott

April 14, 2013 — by Sabrina Chen, Cristina Curcelli and Samuel Liu

Editor's note: The story has been revised to include the comments of Sasan Sadaat. There also appears to be some confusion on the reporting in this story. The reporters did not take a poll of 50 students to arrive at the conclusion that around 10 students had seen the photos. Rather, the reporting centered on five sources very well connected with the situation. The three sources mentioned in this story gave higher estimates of the number than the other two, whose credibilities The Falcon had reason to suspect. 

 

Although the national media reported that illicit photos of sophomore Audrie Pott’s unconscious body went “viral” among students at the school, several students familiar with the situation have said that they think roughly 10 people saw them, and that the photos never went on Facebook.

Like several other sources for this story, a sophomore boy spoke on condition of anonymity. The boy, who was close friends with both Pott and the arrested boys, said that fewer than 10 people saw the "viral" pictures. He also said that as far as he knew, no pictures were uploaded to Facebook. He said that only the people at the party (around 10 people) saw the photos. 

"The media said the pictures were all over," he said. "That's not true. I believe [people saw them in] texts and [in] person. I'd say less than 10 [people saw them]."

He said he knew this because only the people at the party (whose names he wouldn’t divulge) talked about the photos, and that none of his friends who hadn’t been at the party had seen the photos. He said that he himself was not at the party. 

Another sophomore boy, who was also friends with Pott and the three boys arrested for sexual assault, confirmed the first boy’s estimate. 

“It was pretty much limited to just a few people other than the ones at the party,” he said. “So around 10 sounds right.”

The source, however, said he wasn’t entirely sure it was limited to those at the party. 

“It just kind of got around that this stuff happened between our group of friends,” he said “The people that saw the photos were probably most of the people at the party and then maybe a couple of the three guys’ close friends. I'm not 100 percent sure this is the truth but from everything I've heard [the arrested boys] tried to keep it a secret for the most part.” 

A third boy who was also part of the circle of friends confirmed both the first boy’s and the second’s stories. 

Sophomore Catherine Tang, a close friend of Pott’s, also thinks the circle of students who saw the photos was limited and didn’t go viral. 

“I was really close friends with Audrie, and I haven't even seen it,”  Tang said. “I know it was not all over Facebook and viral like how the news is saying. I know that it wasn’t that the whole school knew about it.”

Earlier, Pott family attorney Robert Allard told Yahoo! News of the purported viral spreading of photos taken of Pott while she was unconscious. “The whole school knew, it’s the worst way imaginable to be violated,” he said. “That’s something to be reserved for your husband. It’s savage. It’s just savage."

The Pott family is trying to push for stricter cyber-bullying laws. News reports around the nation cited Allard, claiming that the photos went “viral.”

The Falcon spoke to more than four dozen students, and none of them had seen the photos.

ASB president Sasan Sadaat agreed that the photos were far less widespread than originally claimed. 

“I don’t think that SHS or the community is trying to sweep anything under the rug or neglect the topic of Audrie's loss,” Sadaat said. “I certainly don't think that the photos the media has been discussing or details of the events were in any way widespread and common knowledge to most SHS students. Most students like myself learned of the events after the news brought it up.”

The recent media coverage, however, has failed to reflect that. 

“I think that sort of coverage tries to depict Saratoga as some ‘stuck in their own world, trying to avoid the subject’ institute,” Sadaat said. 

In sharp contrast to that, Sadaat recalled the months spent grieving for Pott on campus: the “sea of teal” created by students and staff wearing Pott’s favorite color, the posters created by students and the overflowing flower donations. 

“The overwhelming desire by the community and school to show their love and grief was moving — I think that says a lot more about our community than the ambiguous and inconclusive coverage the media has provided as of late,” Sadaat said. 

 

Comments

I'm not saying what they did was okay; it was not at all and horrible. But those pictures did not spread like "wildfire" because none of my friends even saw them, nor did I ever hear about people seeing them except in that small group.

uhm yeah but that's still far from the point. Furthermore, it trivializes Audrie's situation

Out of all the possible articles that could have been written on Audrie, a useless one like this is constructed? It's far beyond the point that 10 people or even 10 million people saw the picture. The factis that the act of disseminating the images led to Audrie's suicide.

Misrepresentation of information is a huge problem. It doesn't make what the boys did right or ok, but it is still wrong the way they misrepresented information

As another commenter commented..whether 10 people or 10 million people saw this these 3 immature boys need to be prosecuted as adults, serve years in jail and have to register as sex offenders...I am shocked at the lack of morals the youth of America has. Shame on their parents and shame on the school for not taking immediate action on this. Grow up and accept responsiblity for your actions

Please stop with this slant on the story. Who cares how many people actually saw the photos - the point is that a young girl was sexually assaulted at a gathering where others were present to stop it. It doesn't make the actions of the 3 boys (or the inactions of witnesses at the party) any more excusable or forgivable. Nor does it diminish the anguish that this girl felt. I can only hope that the writers did not intend to convey this message in writing this story, but that is how it reads. Extremely disappointed in The Falcon.

The story is meant to do nothing more than dispute the original inaccuracies in the media. Many reports were painting SHS as a group of students who, knowing about an atrocious crime, refused to come forward. That is not who SHS is as a school, and the sources saying that the photos were indeed not "viral" speak to that. On that note, we also agree that the number of people who saw the photo does not change how terrible the boys' actions were. What matters is that Audrie thought everyone knew, and that some people did see the photos.

Shame on you for focusing on whether or not it went viral. You are taking the focus away from the fact that a sexual assault occured on a young lady and the fact that others were present and aware of this incident. Your lack of compassion may have earned you a few seconds of fame but it has lost you a great deal of respect. How will your writing improve the community or benefit us? You seem to be justifying the fact that only 10 people saw these lude acts performed by members of our community. A young girl is dead and you find it important to investigate the number of people who actually possessd and viewed child pornography or evidence of a sexual assualt. How about using your time and efforts to convince them to come forward because it is the right thing to do? Would you feel any different if it were your daughter or sister? Is this the issue you would be focusing on if it were? The writers and editors seem to lack integrity in my opinion. A sad day for our community. May God bless her soul and heal the pain her parents must be feeling. I can not imagine that loss and then having to deal with a high school paper allowing such a petty article to be published. Please parents focus on teaching your children ethics and compassion. This article would have served the community better by providing information to assist in the prevention of sexual assault or suicide. When you are given a platform, use it to make a difference not escalate the problem.

I totally agree with this comment.

110% agreed. A very bad article, on the Falcon's part. So unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Shame on you for being an idiot. The national media misrepresented the entire SHS student body by blatantly exaggerating the number of people who saw the pictures in question. Journalism is about presenting accurate information and letting the readership draw conclusions. By providing false and sensationalist information, the national media has undermined the veracity of the case and is effectively crucifying the accused. Thank you Samuel, Mr. Tyler, et al. for this important article.

Instead of being worried about Audrie, you guys are trying to defend the school's reputation, which is selfish and ridiculous

Actually, this "minor detail" is quite important to the case. Because the claim that Allard is making is that part of Audrie's suicide was linked to the fact that "the whole school knew." Allard says, "There's no doubt that the combination of the assault and the torture by cyberbullying caused Audrie to end her life." He implies that the boys widely distributed the photos with the intent of cyberbullying, which is false. If no one disputed these claims, Allard could easily say that the boys used facebook cyberbullying to harass Potts after the incident, which led to her suicide. However, given the FACTS at this point, cyberbullying may or may not have occurred. Thus this distinction is actually critically important in a LEGAL sense. Additionally, I doubt you take this kind of "who cares about the details" attitude and apply it to other news stories. For example, in the US-Libya scandal, whether or not the government knew beforehand about potential threats in Libya also does not affect the fact that 4 Americans died in the conflict. However, in that case, the media was in a frenzy over this supposedly minor detail. Even though you assume the guilt of the 3 boys and think that any additional propaganda against them is deserved, this is not how the American media or the American justice system should work.

I can somewhat understand what this writer is trying to convey, but still, it is completely unnecessary. The point is, as others have said above, people knew of the photos and nothing was done about it, regardless of how many people saw it.

This article almost makes it worse...the 3 young men who assaulted tried to keep the photos a secret because...they didnt want to get in trouble/they knew it was wrong?? Some friends Audrie had...they sexaully assaulted her, took advantage of her when she was unconscious, took photos of the incident... then shared it within her social circle? Great friends. I wonder how many of the "friends" at the party attended her funeral. Defending your school is one thing, however the victim is dead, how about a piece that gives her some support? If friends in your social circle saw photos of you being sexually assaulted/battered/raped while you were unconscious, do you shrug and let it go, because it was only ten friends, not viral all over facebook? What difference does it matter...like Tyler Clementi, I hope there is justice for the deceased in this case. Defending your schools honor is great, "go falcons!" but supporting those that are alleged rapists and bullies while Audrie is dead makes it seem like there is something to hide. Btw hope all these sources that wish to be unnamed be subpoenaed so they can divulge and reveal the truth. I'm sure all those attending that party wish they hadn't, now.

You idiots at Saratoga High have no idea what total insensitive freaks you have made yourself look like. This article is a piece of trash and your reporting is nothing less than vulgar trash.

I go to SHS, and I am sorry to say... I totally agree with this comment.

Give these kids a (spring) break. The reporting that they are doing makes sense, and so what if they want to defend the school or tell the truth? It's their job as writers for the school paper. The truth needs to get out there, and the Falcon was the first to get it right.

Actually this is a very important point that is worth clarifying. I don't feel the article either diminishes or condones the behavior. It does however make the perpetrators look much worse. There is a news clip on Fox discussing this incident and the first thing they mentioned was how the pictures went viral and how the boys were so brazen in spreading them. It was a dominant part of the discussion because it makes the incident seem far more horrific. It is still horrible what they did, but this point is not small. I also agree with the assessment that this would also be an important distinction in court. Another point is that the victim's family is making this out to be a cyber-bullying issue and that is precisely because of the photos and whether it was shared. I don't really feel it's particularly a cyber-bullying issue though because rumors can easily spread just from word-of-mouth and that alone is bad enough for the victim, but it would also be a big difference if the photos were on the internet. Anyways what the boys did is still inexcusable and instead of going about cyber-bullying or "audrie's law", the concern should be that a girl was raped, a friend even, and that alone is the core issue of this tragedy.

The students quoted in this article are enabling and protecting rapists. If people associated with this school are concerned about its reputation, they should come forward an tell the truth. Who was at the party. WHo saw the pictures, Name names. But no, like your principal, you prefer to cover it up. The guilt compounds.

The students spoke the truth: they didn't see the photo. It didn't go "viral" as the attorney had claimed. How is that "enabling"?

Court documents reveal (clips from Mercury New story, March 15): She woke up with her shorts off and arrows, circles and nasty comments scrawled on her body. The left side of her face was colored black. The court documents highlight the difficulty investigators had in convincing students who were at the party -- and their parents -- to tell the truth. One girl told investigators, "I just don't want to throw anyone under the bus. One of the suspects claims the other two may have sexually assaulted her while they were drawing on her, the report states. Another student admitted to walking in on them but denied actually seeing the drawing or the assault. One suspect initially claimed that Audrie egged on the boys during the alleged sexual touching but later backed off that statement when challenged by an investigator. After the alleged assault one of the suspects admitted to sending a photograph of the incident to another. That same suspect reportedly told other partygoers that he deleted the photos, but drew their suspicion after he was later seen at school with a group of students huddled around his phone. During the course of the interviews, sheriff investigators found themselves dealing with sharply conflicting statements and suspicions that the students, most of whom attended Saratoga High School, were lying for each other. Some even claimed that Audrie initially laughed off the experience. "It also seemed as if she was trying to cover up for someone to prevent them from getting in trouble," investigator Damian Camarena wrote about one student in the report. "We told her the importance of telling the truth not only to find out if a criminal act had occurred but to give a sense of closure to (Audrie's) family," the report states.

Your reporting lacks balance also. Media articles have included statements from Saratoga students, with the courage to include their names, which dispute your coverage: Darst King, 17, said, "Everyone already knew who it was. I wouldn't say they were nice guys, but I wouldn't have expected them to do something like that." (San Francisco Chronicle, April 13) If your school had more people with this level of integrity you would most likely not be finding yourselves in the shameful position you are now. (And that includes your principal and administrators.) In your story, you claim to have spoken with about 50 students, roughly .04% of your 1,400 school population, and on this you conclude that your assertions are the correct version. Couldn’t find anyone saying otherwise, unlike other new outlets? I suggest you try again. I hope the cowards and apologists you chose to include in your story receive their subpoenas soon.

To those commenters that are accusing these writers or this paper of taking a side and defending the boys, reread the article. It's a simple news article. They did not deny or diminish a crime. They simply reported on an inaccuracy that affects both the case and the school. There is no need to read in between the lines. Give these writers a break. They're doing their job, as a school newspaper does, in representing the student body's thoughts. Give this school and these writers a break. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Pott family and the Saratoga community.

I have to agree with the majority of commenters that your attempts to defend your school have only made you appear worse. And, in fact, the court documents now being reported on have the police documenting that the students of your school were not forthcoming, hampering the investigation. How about a story on that? Sorry you feel the value of your diploma is being diminished (as if that is the real tragedy here!), but you have only decreased it more with this article. The undertone of all your coverage has shown contempt for Audrie (i.e., barely anyone even saw the photo=she overreacted; earlier article-she had issues before this), meanwhile we haven’t heard one word of outrage expressed about what the boys did and that speaks volumes. And you commend yourselves for wearing teal t-shirts. That’s a joke, right? You all seem to be much more worked up over the ‘bad’ press than you ever were about Audrie’s suicide or its cause

Do you know anything about journalism "Nope?" You want them to post an article showing contempt for the boys? Do you understand how irresponsible that would be? This is not some blog for people to express their opinions (unless it is strictly stated so), this is supposed to be somewhere people can get facts from, and they have done a good job on fact checking the mercury news. That's all this article is about. It's not an opinion piece, this is straight up data. And that's what the news should be.

I know that editorial decisions regarding the angle to take on stories reflect the views of the reporting institution. Every article written on this topic has been defensive and minimizing. I found another quote a local media outlet got from a student: But back after Audrie took her life, and some students found out what the boys allegedly did to her, "their reputations kind of went down the drain," said one sophomore who is a friend of the three boys, but believes arresting them was the right thing to do. "I kind of just wonder why it took so long," said the boy, who did not want to be identified for fear of being associated with the case. How about just one article covering how the students felt about the 3 boys staying on campus? As for your comment that writing a story expressing outrage at the boys actions would be irresponsible, this story itself confirms that a sexual assault took place, was photographed and those photos were shown to other students at school. With this confirmation, it is the time to express outrage. The court document (posted above) cover the admissions from the boys and other witnesses. We now know that the boys were cited for sexual battery and had their phones (at least those not conveniently lost) confiscated by Sept. 21. The sheriff confirmed that 20 to 30 more search warrants were executed on other students. We all went to high school. Please do not expect us to believe that this was not the talk of the school. Finally, the anonymous sources your paper quotes in this story have a vested interest in playing down the situation, so their credibility is dubious. No anonymous quotes from the kids who went to the assistant principal to report the sexual assault and the photos days after Audrie’s suicide? Another questionable editorial decision -- or you just don’t have the chops for investigative reporting. I will credit this paper for posting all these negative comments though. That does show good character.

I am slightly disappointed in your school newspaper article. The article states that the photo did not go 'viral'. An image sent quickly and widely to other parties by electronic means is one definition of 'viral'. Stating three anonymous sources, who may or may not have bias, that 'around ten' is correct is not a full investigation. I would suggest there is a slight defensiveness around this article towards the school's reputation. What about reporting that all three are claimed to be on a football team and question how many of on the team, who could be seen as school leaders, have seen documentation or have information on the charges. Also, why is school principal Paul Robinson not discussing his inaccuracies in statements to the media... http://www.mercurynews.com/scott-herhold/ci_23039418/herhold-principals-inaccuracies-audrie-pott-case Perhaps a more interesting angle is getting students who obviously know more which would help authorities to talk further or an editorial on why teenagers may not want to provide statements. Who, what, when, where and why is often key in information gathering. There seems to be a golden opportunity here for reporting. You may have done an disservice to Audrie Pott's family's current investigation to not question the 'around ten' amount now being quoted, without asking what did they see and why. Another question did Pott's suicide and the possibility of a delayed police investigation curtail the spread of one or more images.

These kids are on spring break. They are not a professional newspaper. I'd say we're safe in assuming their coverage of the tragedy isn't complete, so while this story provides one aspect of student voices, I would expect that they will publish stories from other angles as well. There's no need to attack them.

You have made your school look like people who care about nothing but your own reputations. In many ways Sam Liu has done more damage to your school's reputation than the people at Steubenville did to theirs. At least there the students weren't lining up to defend the school and pretend to care about the victim. This isn't "reporting." It is advocacy -- and essentially advocacy against the victim and her family. The lame attempts you have made to make it seem otherwise are just that, lame!

Btw, one story states you polled more than two dozen students, this one mentions four dozen, you should get the facts straight. Maybe poll the whole school? Or do the writers for this "newspaper" not know how to do these things correctly. Don't wanna throw anyone under the bus....?

Seriously, it doesn't matter how many people saw. Either way, Audrie committed suicide BECAUSE OF THIS. This school is trying to make it better by saying that "only around 10 people saw the photos". No matter how many times we say that it "wasn't bullying" or that "not many people saw the photos", she still committed suicide and a beautiful girl has died. Saratoga High School, I know we are a good school and clearly like to think we are. But to sink to this level where we are clearly trying to make it "better"? This is a tragedy, and I feel like SHS is trying to "make it better"/"less tragic". Stop trying to cover up. It happened, we need to face it.

This is basically what I'm seeing in the comments section. Let me know if it's not accurate. Commenter: SHS Student, did you see the pictures of Audrie? SHS Student: No. Commenter: Why didn't you tell the police if you saw the photos?! SHS Student: I didn't see the photos. Commenter: But I read in the news that the pictures went viral, so you must have seen them. Stop lying. SHS Student: I'm not lying. The photos didn't go viral. Commenter: IT DOESN'T MATTER IF THE PHOTOS WENT VIRAL OR NOT. Don't try to cover it up, you filth!!!

It bothers me that nearly EVERY SINGLE one of the people who are attacking this newspaper are focusing on the fact that Ms. Pott committed suicide. Does it make it any worse? Even if she had not committed suicide, what these boys did was absolutely horrific, so since you all are so set on reading into the minutia this article, check yourselves. You are conveying a message equally reprehensible; that these cases only matter when someone dies. Furthermore, many of you seem to be forgetting who exactly it is that is writing this article. THEY ARE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. If you actually expected any of them to understand the impression that writing like this might leave on readers that are outside of the "Saratoga Bubble," then you are as ignorant as they (or you are not from the Saratoga region). Now, some of you might say "But look, it doesn't matter if they are ignorant or not. What they wrote was beside the point and distracting from the abhorrence of a little girl's rape." Remember that any real newspaper will gladly focus on controversial issues (and in fact do) to garner more readership (ex. Fox News). They actually attract a greater number of audience members who watch because they disagree with what the media outlet is saying (ex. Howard Stern). So in my opinion, this is great reporting. Bravo.

The students and staff of Saratoga High have been caught in several lies about the the the rape and suicide. The SJ Merc has referenced the police report for the false statements by students and Scott Herhold has documented the timeline on the Principal's false statements. At this time, statements by anonymous sources and the Principal have no integrity. At least Catherine gave her name. She didn't see the pics, but what did she know about the pics and the rape?

I don't see how bashing this article is bringing the much-needed justice to light. Instead of focusing on how bad this article is, we should focus on what is currently happening and how we might prevent it from happening again. Yes, we are all grieving and hurting about Audrie's death, but how does directing our hate towards a news article going to help her Audrie rest in peace? Stop saying that Saratoga High students are ruining their own school's reputation or how shameful we are. This hit closer to home than it did with other people. Stop focusing on the minute details. Start focusing on the change we can bring to our own communities. Pray for justice and peace for Audrie. This isn't the justice that needs to be brought to light.

its pretty funny how some of the comments accusing sam liu and the school sound like cyberbullying themselves. seriously, whats the difference- you guys anonymously sit behind your keyboard and have consistently harassed this page.... bullies

The fact is, they weren't really Audrie's friends. They reflect their foreign parents' contempt for American citizens, and seek to distract from their culpability.. why they didn't protect Audrie. This isn't the behavior of US culture, but the diseased third world sewers the racist Silicon Valley elites crawled out of.

You are a racist bully.

sounds like dieversity played a role in this tragedy.

If the Student Population of SHS is 1,400 students, whether it's 2 doz or 4 doz you polled, it's still not an accurate representation of whether or not the majority of the student body saw the pictures. And with all the press and coverage about the "child pornography", who is going to ADMIT, even to their friends, that they received it and viewed it, know that in doing so, they are admitting to a felony? This article comes off as defensive, and pretty much pointless. If the poor child thought even ONE other person knew, and thought that she somehow let it happen to herself, no wonder she lost it! Kids now are far worse than they have ever been, cliques, scenes, straightedge, emo, preppy, freak, etc. All these lines serve is a reason for people to blame others, for people to push others away. Instead of coming together fully in this tragedy, the school newspaper of SHS has shown itself to be so out of touch with it's student population, I would be ashamed to have been the teacher who allowed it to be published, I would be ashamed to be the student editor who allowed the article to be put in such a place as the WWW for everyone to see. Shame on you, SHAME.

Regardless of the specific content of your reporting and whether it was or was not adequately researched or published in "good taste" (an inappropriate accusation to make against a news article), I commend the three of you for sticking up for your rights and the rights of student journalists across the state and the country. This was obviously a tragedy irrespective of how many students saw Ms. Pott's photo or whether "cyber-bullying" led to her suicide, but your rights are equally guarded no matter the emotional weight of your stories, and that you are willing to fight for them is incredibly important. Best of luck, I hope to run in to all three of you at Stanford someday soon.

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