Legal expert weighs in on Coffee County cyber bullying case

Posted at 8:44 PM, Oct 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-09 23:20:48-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — It was a death that rocked a mid-state community: 16-year-old Channing Smith killed himself after being outed as bi-sexual by classmates on social media.

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As the investigation continues, Channing's family and friends have urged the Coffee County District Attorney General to press charges. Channing's father even met with the DA and the sheriff's office to discuss the case. He argues that his son's case fits Tennessee's definition of cyber bullying and the teens should be held accountable.

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But Nashville attorney David Raybin says it's not that simple.

Raybin says because of how far freedom of speech extends, a prosecutor has to prove that the kids who may have posted intimate text messages on social media knew before making the post that Channing would then harm himself.

"Just because I offend you in some way, and you kill yourself because of that, it's not foreseeable," Raybin said. "It may in fact be the cause of you harming yourself because of something I said to you, but unless it's foreseeable -- and reasonably foreseeable -- that you would harm yourself because of that, that's not a criminal case."

Raybin says the students who allegedly shared the intimate texts may be liable in a civil lawsuit, if not a criminal charge.