Ok - so I contacted the "States Attorney" (the ADA) and the Fort Meyers Police Department.
First the States attorney's office: Not a real shining moment on their part. I asked for the Attorney on duty, the one who takes the incoming phone calls, and after expaining why I was calling was transferred to Samantha Syoen. She is (from memory, sorry if it's not the exactly right title) Communications Director. She had her talking points and wasn't exactly a good reflection on the State's Attorneys' office. I got bullet comments, and told that "it's in the hands of the police, so we can't comment" crap - not to mention a fair amount of high handed tone and a good dose of "Call the Fort Meyers Police Department" and wanting to get rid of me.
In fairness, I do get that they want to put a good face on this - but Samantha Syoen needs to find a new job. She was haughty, dismissive, and, IMO, to me, was having poor impulse control when trying to not show her annoyance at me.
Now - let's be clear : I deal with people of rank, stature, and who hold various offices all day - and so I get the "bureaucratic-ese" response to a PR disaster. I really do. I also know how to be polite, but insistant, and to not be fobbed off too easily, but if Samantha Syoen is the face of the State's Attorney's office, she's either new at Communications, been in the job too long, or has never been schooled in the art of diplomacy nor in how to win over the public.
When she kept trying to foist me off (and clearly get me to call SOMEONE ELSE) she told me to call the Fort Meyers Police Department. I asked whom should I speak to and she kept giving me the general number. I reminded her that her office works "hand in glove" with the FMPD all the time, and it would be helpful to know which division, department, and really helpful to know the lead detective's name. Nope, nada, zip, she could not be bothered and feigned ignorance.
Which, ya know, is strange, considering that, when you assign a Communications Director to answer all questions regarding a case, you normally would brief them in on why they are being assigned, who the players are, what the situation is, and how best to keep the public on good terms with your office vis a vis this case so as to best represent your office. Samantha Syoen clearly failed that course in college, or has a seriously over developed case of hubris.
So I called the FMPD.
Completely different story. I know that many MRAs have had issues with those who wear a badge - and I get that. From my perspective, as both an MRA and as a Soldier, one who has worked with many police officers, local, state, and even federal, I tend to give them a lot more credit and try not to make assumptions.
So, I get a secretary, who listens to me, and, in her own way (trying not to misrepresent her, nor get her in hot water) expresses her own disgust at what these girls did.
She dutifully directs my call to the detective (Flynn, if memory serves) and I go to voice mail.
I express my feelings of dismay, and ask them to consider that the message this sends is very bad ju ju. Would this not send the message that such actions by these girls can be done with impunity by OTHER girls, because of how these girls got off. Also, should it come to pass that this boy, in 2-4 years, takes it into his head to do this same thing to some neighborhood girl, laughing and giggling, while she is SCREAMING in distress, would the police then let him go and blow it off - was this not creating the potential for more victims in the years to come?
I left my name, and my phone number, and honestly thought I would be blown off.
I get a call from the FMPD Chief. He was calling me back to discuss my concerns and to listen to what I had to say. From the outset, to me, this signals a more open police department, and one that is trying to deal with a situation with as much openess as they can.
When he called, since it said "unknown #" on my phone (we have caller ID) I answered in my formal job position title and greeting of the day. I cleared up that I am a Sergeant in the Army, and not on a police force.
He was very open to talking to me - and here's the gist:
The media are blowing this out of proportion. The kids all know each other, live in the same neighborhood, the kids are all 11 and 12, and this really was, or started off as, a prank. It clearly BECAME (my take on it) more malicious, and the video being posted was the height of stupidity.
How ever, and no pun intended, I stood my ground, and asked a few questions and injected a few ideas.
1) Sure, it STARTED OUT as funny, and clearly the girls found it hilarious, but the boy was SCREAMING in pitiful distress.
2) Sure, bullies start out bullying in their local neighborhoods, and not the next town over, but that's just due to access and availibility of a car - and does not lessen the severity of the attack - and that was what it was.
3) This boy may be so humiliated that he is indicating that he wants this to "go away" and "be over", but he's 11 - and does not realize that in 3-4 years, when he's in high school that this will still be following him - probably into college too. As he's teased, bullied, and suffers endless shame and social isolation from this, his anger will grow and it will never have the outlet of judicial redress.
4) The girls will get the message that saying "it was a joke" and "we didn't mean it" and "we didn't know it bothered him" will get them out of trouble like this. And so will their classmates, friends, team mates, and other girls who hear of this story. What message are we sending?
Bullies don't look at their victims as equal people or as real persons. While, yes, kids can be cruel, this was vicious. While, yes, they were laughing while the boy was screaming, to me that does not indicate a lack of understanding or that they thought it was a game, but rather a complete lack of empathy for a fellow human being, and an enjoyment of his humiliation and suffering.
5) Regardless of whether mom wants charges filed, that didn't the FMPD sometimes get calls from neighbors who hear a disturbance, and the police show up on a possible DV call? Where the woman has clearly been beaten, but won't press charges? Were those cases dropped or pursued? Did not video of this crime exist? Isn't it kidnapping to restrain a person and not allow them to leave? Isn't it sexual assault to set out to and complete the act of stripping a person of their clothes while you hold them down? Isn't it a crime to video tape it, of this naked child, and put it on YouTube, which crosses state lines, and post a video of a naked child?
Clearly the video existed - so "mom's permission" was not needed.
Now, in fairness to the Chief, he agreed on many points, he listened and was attentive. He really listened, and he was actually very polite (compare and contrast to Samantha Syoen - whos' next job that matches her skill set when dealing with people should involve cleaning cat litter boxes) - and he kept telling me that there was more to this story, that the case was not closed, that the kids all knew each other and lived in the same neighborhood, and had been friends for a long time, and that this was a tragedy and a terrible mistake, was getting miscontrued by the media.
Honestly, I don't think the Chief and I will see eye to eye on this - but he was open as he could be, not guarded, took the time to address everthing I said, and was doing his best to do a difficult job as this incident had clearly taken on political and social aspects and a life of its' own.
As MRAs we may not like the outcome (I don't), but I wanted to share what had transpired when I called. The State's Attorney's office clearly needs a new Communications Director (or at least put her in a job not dealing with people), and needs to look into this case after the police deliver their report.
As to the FMPD, I disagree on the "it was just kids" line of thinking - but, only because so many of us here have seen that were this 3 boys who did this to a girl, that same line of thinking would have taken on a different directions. And God forbid it had happened to little girl of color by 3 white boys (wow, that does sound familiar).
Lastly - the victim is going to live with this for years. Why? Because it was video taped and we all know how kids are - he won't be ABLE to "put this behind him" - his peers won't allow it.
Should he grow up to do the same thing, as clearly the message here is "it's just kids", I have a feeling a sex offender registry, a term in prison, and a very confused mind (as it was "no big deal when it was done to him") will surely ensue.
Hope that was helpful.