NEW PORT RICHEY — The teen accused of egging on a school bus assault last February, filming it with her cell phone and posting it online pleaded no contest Thursday and received 270 days probation.
The 16-year-old girl was charged with being a principal to battery during the Feb. 1 school bus beating of Mitchell High schoolmate Chase Cristia.
The teen, who is not being named because of her age, is no longer allowed to have access to any social media sites, including Facebook, must adhere to curfew, and must help pay restitution, along with her 17-year-old co-defendant, of $2,984. She will also have to write a letter of apology to Cristia as well as one to her own mother, Circuit Court Judge Shawn Crane said.
When asked by Crane Thursday in court how she felt about herself when she watched the video, the teen responded: “Disgusted. Not only was it lawfully wrong, but it was morally wrong.”
The 17-year-old co-defendant, who attacked Cristia on the bus, accepted a plea deal in July on a misdemeanor battery charge. She was sentenced to 270 days of probation, curfew and no access to social media. She must attend anger management classes and write a letter of apology to Cristia.
“Take this as a lesson to move forward in a positive way in the future,” Crane said. “Ms. Cristia has already done that and she has certainly showed an incredible amount of strength and resiliency and I think that there’s a lot to be said for that. And now we’ll see how you will respond.”
A letter from Cristia was read in court Thursday by Assistant State Attorney Eric Rosario.
The letter read, in part: “What these girls did to me was unprovoked and brutal. And if the physical part of this wasn’t bad enough, they only made it so much worse by positing it over the Internet.”
Cristia, 16, was in the back of a school bus in February when she was attacked. The video footage showed Cristia being struck roughly a dozen times on her head, neck, and shoulder area. Cristia did not fight back while trying to avoid the punches. No one stepped in to help.
The 16-year-old defendant’s mother, standing at a podium with her daughter and their attorney, Charles W. Inman, apologized to the Cristia family.
“Your Honor, I send my apologies to the family,” she said. “No one deserves to get beat up that way. I hope that they accept my apology.”
The confrontation started earlier that day at Mitchell High when Cristia’s male friend was teased by the defendants. Cristia defended him and was threatened.
As the bus approached the intersection of Little Road and State Road 54, she was attacked.
Both girls were arrested at school and later expelled during a school district hearing in March.
“It’s good that this case came to an end today,” Inman, the teen’s lawyer, said following the hearing. “It was a very stressful situation for her. She’s very upset … Unfortunately, she didn’t show the best judgment at the time. She’s terribly sorry.”