Bullied Trans Teen Enters Plea Bargain to Drop Assault Charges
Jewlyes Gutierrez, a Contra Costa transgender teen who faced assault charges after defending herself against schoolyard bullying, has entered an agreement that could allow charges to be dropped.
As reported in a Jan. 19 EDGE article, the 16-year-old sophomore at Hercules Middle/High School in the Bay Area was charged on Jan. 8 with battery by the Contra Costa District Attorney's office after defending herself against three girls who reportedly attacked her in the schoolyard on Nov. 13, 2013.
"I feel hurt and frustrated because [the other girls involved in the fight are] not getting charged and me getting charged battery for a crime," said Gutierrez in that article.
Her public defender Kaylie Simon echoed this, saying "It's confusing as to why Jewlyes is being further victimized when she's the one who is already being harassed and tormented... due to her gender identity and then to have adults subject her to the court system. The district attorney's office is supposed to represent the community and keep everyone safe regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
Gutierrez's family and friends also spoke up for her, via a Change.org petition, expressing outrage that the district attorney had leveled charges against their sister.
"One of the girls who attacked Jewlyes had repeated bullied her -- even spitting gum in her face," wrote Valerie Poquiz on Change.org. "Jewlyes sought help from the assistant principal in fear of her physical safety but the issue was not properly addressed, no necessary action was taken by the administration. The bullying continued... Please tell the District Attorneys Office that we want our tax dollars spent on teaching tolerance and on conflict resolution programs in schools, not on prosecuting youth who are in need of a safe learning environment."
More than 200,000 people responded in outrage to the incident, further incensed by reports that the county's public information officer Connie Van Putten refused to refer to Gutierrez as female during an interview with the TransAdvocate, and would not pursue hate crime protections.
Gutierrez was scheduled for a Feb. 5 pre-trial conference, but the San Jose Mercury News reported that Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Maddock has accepted an agreement with public defender Kaylie Simon, allowing Gutierrez to enter a restorative justice program which upon completion could allow for the battery charge to be dropped.
"It's like conflict resolution to talk it out," the 16-year-old Hercules High student told her family and representatives from the Transgender Law Center and RYSE Center. "Then, after it is over, (the charge) will hopefully be dismissed."