Twitter sex case girl faces judge

A teenage sex assault victim who defied a gagging order to identify her attackers on Twitter because she thought their plea deal was too lenient defended her action before a judge.

Savannah Dietrich, 17, told the court in Louisville, Kentucky, she considered suicide after two boys, then 16, assaulted her last August 2011 and showed semi-nude photos of her to classmates.

She said she was unaware of the plea agreement until just before it was announced in court in June. The deal calls for the boys to undergo sex offender treatment and serve 50 hours of volunteer work, but it allows them to have their records expunged before the age of 20.

Victims of sexual assault are generally not identified, but Savannah and her parents wanted her story made public. The names of the two attackers were not disclosed because the case has been handled in juvenile court.

The attack gained public attention when Savannah tweeted the names of the boys against a judge's orders not to discuss the case. Defence lawyers had asked a judge to consider a contempt charge, but later dropped their request.

On Friday, Savannah read from a statement for more than 15 minutes as her attackers sat at a table, one looking down and the other staring straight ahead. She said she was humiliated after the attack. "I was in so much pain, death seemed like a friendly thought to me," she said.

At times she addressed her attackers directly. At other times, her hands visibly shaking, she faced the judge and unleashed her frustrations about the case. "I couldn't even cry myself to sleep," Savannah said. "I hardly got any sleep."

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell told the judge that Savannah had "a right to her own personal history" and should not have been told to remain silent about the case.

Assistant county attorney Julie Hardesty told Savannah during closing arguments that she was brave for reporting the attack and going through with the prosecution. "We have admired your strength and we have admired your poise," Ms Hardesty said.

After the hearing, Savannah said she was satisfied with the result and would walk away from the episode a smarter person. But, she said she doubted her attackers yet understood the impact of their actions and her comments in court. "I'm not sure it meant anything to them," she said. "I hope one day they'll understand the situation."