Bail Set In Videotaped Fla. Teen Beating

Eight teenagers have been arrested after filming the beating of another teen and threatening to post the video on the Internet, sheriff's officials said, still The Early Show, April 8, 2008.
Eight teens accused of taking part in the notorious videotaped beating of another central Florida teen are being held on bond.

A judge set bail Friday for each at $30,000 during their first appearance.

The Polk County state attorney's office says seven of the teens will be tried as adults. The youngest of them is 14. The eighth person is 18-years-old and considered an adult by state law.

They face kidnapping and misdemeanor battery charges. Three also face a felony charge of witness tampering.

Being charged as an adult carries with it much stiffer penalties, possibly including up to life in prison on the kidnapping charges. Facing charges of battery, false imprisonment and kidnapping are Mercades Nichols, 17, Brittini Hardcastle, 17, April Cooper, 14, Cara Murphy, 16, Britney Mayes, 17, Kayla Hassell, 15, Zachary Ashley, 17, and Stephen Schumaker, 18. The two boys are accused of acting as lookouts outside the house in which the beating took place on March 30.

A judge has issued a gag order requiring everyone involved in the case to keep their mouths shut.

The video has been viewed widely on national TV and the Internet. It's not clear who originally posted the video on the Internet, but portions of the video were released by the sheriff's office and posted on CBS affiliate WTSP-TV.

In an interview on The Early Show Wednesday, the victim's father, Patrick Lindsay, said the teens' motivation for the attack was to produce a video that would become popular on YouTube, a video-sharing Web site. To watch that interview,


"There was talk about apparently after the fact, apparently there's other students that knew that they were going to post this just for the thrill of everyone to see it," the victim's mother, Talisa Lindsay, told CBS News' The Early Show. "Which is just outrageous."

"I think that there ought to be laws enacted and legislation put in place to protect our children from the internet," added the victim's father, "we can't be with our children 24 hours a day."

The shocking nature of a video of this kind does not mean YouTube or any other media company should get the blame, legally or ethically, for the attack, media experts said Friday.

In fact, they have a duty to share the video, said Kelly McBride, the ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"The fact that the video was shot because they were seeking publicity was secondary," McBride said. "A crime was committed in our community, and if there's a videotape of it, I want some information. That video was incredibly revealing. It told more truth about what happened than any other form of reporting could have told."

Those who blame YouTube or news organizations should blame themselves first, said Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"The public is culpable as well because they are paying attention," he said. "There is no medium that forces them to pay attention."

While the Florida beating was never actually posted on YouTube, CBS News correspondent Daniel Sieberg reports that a search on the site reveals multiple videos of young girls fighting each other. Many have been there for several months or longer.

"Young people harassing and bullying one another has been going on since the beginning of time," says CBS News technology consultant Larry Magid, "but the fact that it can now be distributed internationally via the internet is one more incentive."

A recent Pew Internet survey found that one in three online teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying with girls more likely to become victims, reports Sieberg.

YouTube, owned by Google Inc., declined to comment on the video, but said its general policies call for the removal of clips that show someone getting "hurt, attacked or humiliated."

In a statement to CBS News, YouTube says inappropriate content can be removed "within minutes" if it violates guidelines, however it's pretty much up to the users to police the site and reject such violent behavior.

From a legal standpoint, YouTube and other online service providers are largely exempt from liability because of a 1996 anti-pornography law. One provision says Internet service providers are not considered publishers simply because they retransmit information provided by their users or other sources.

Federal courts have applied that broadly to cover not just Internet access providers, but also video-sharing sites, message boards and other online services.

Even without that provision, there doesn't appear to be anything illegal about the video, said John Morris, senior counsel with the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil-liberties group in Washington, D.C.

"There is no legal reason this video cannot be shown. It is obviously distasteful, abhorrent what the teenagers did to the victim, but it doesn't really make sense (to ask), 'Should YouTube have taken it down?"' Morris said.

Even if there were a claim of illegality, he said, the courts should be the ones deciding, not YouTube.

"Many of those assertions are really very difficult, legal determinations that YouTube has no ability to make," Morris said. "Really, YouTube is not in a position to be a traffic cop."

The videotaped beating released on Monday by the Polk County Sheriff's Office was just one of five fights filmed over a period of 30 minutes. At one point the victim's head is slammed into a bedroom wall and she's knocked unconscious. Investigators say the beating happened in Lakeland, Fla. while the victim was spending time at a friend's house during spring break.