A highschool student in Sussex County was charged with cyber harassment after he posted comments online directed toward an elementary school girl and another person encouraging suicide, police said.
In addition, the teen sent the girl a photo of someone pointing a gun at himself, Franklin Borough police said.
Police began an investigation after the posts were reported.
“An elementary school female reported that in response to her online posting of a statement in support of suicide prevention, a male high school student made harassing and disparaging remarks encouraging suicide,” Franklin police said in a statement.
He then began making “harassing and disparaging” comments encouraging suicide to another female and sent the image of a person with a gun, according to police Chief Gregory M. Cugliari.
Police arrested the teen at 6 p.m. on Monday and released him to his parents.
The offense is punishable by up to 18 months in state prison if the person who commits the crime is 18 to 20 years old.
If the individual is 21 years or older and impersonates a minor, they are subject to 3 to 5 years in state prison.
This matter brings to mind the tragic case of Michelle Carter who was convicted in Taunton, Massachusetts of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 15 months in prison for using text messages to encourage her boyfriend to commit suicide. The trial Judge held these texted words were weapons. Tragically her boyfriend committed suicide by carbon monoxide in his truck. The Massachusetts case raised unsettled arguments about free speech and when an individual is responsible for another persons suicide.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is upholding her conviction stated that “After she convinced him to get back into the carbon monoxide filled truck, she did absolutely nothing to help him; she did not call for help or tell him to get out of the truck as she listened to him choke and die.”
Ms. Carter’s attorney intends to appeal her conviction in the U.S. Federal Courts.