UCPO successfully prosecutes first juvenile case involving new cyberbullying law

A Hillside teenager has been sentenced to a year of probation as the result of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office’s first successful juvenile prosecution involving New Jersey’s newly enacted law targeting cyberbullying, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Tuesday.

The 15-year-old, whose identity is being withheld due to her age, pleaded guilty Monday to a single count of fourth-degree cyber harassment. The juvenile defendant also must undergo anger management counseling, complete an anti-cyberbullying training course, perform 15 hours of community service, and submit to a curfew, among other conditions.

The date was April 2 when the girl sent an expletive-laced Facebook message to a former classmate in which she challenged her to a fight and threatened to kill her, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor Stacey Zyriek, who prosecuted the case. An investigation involving the Hillside Police Department and the Prosecutor’s Office’s Juvenile Unit followed, resulting in the juvenile defendant being charged, Zyriek said.

The girl, who now attends a local high school, also has been ordered not to have any contact with the victim, who is in middle school.

The state’s cyberbullying statute was signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie in January. The statute indicates that a fourth-degree crime has occurred if any juvenile makes “a communication in an online capacity via any electronic device or through a social networking site … with the purpose to harass another” or if a juvenile threatens a peer with violence or knowingly sends any lewd or obscene material to or about another person with the intent to inflict emotional harm.