BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - A Bossier City teen charged with felony criminal assistance to suicide in connection with the death of a bullied local teen has cut a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
Jason Thomas was 17 when he was first charged with cyberbullying following the death of 15-year-old fellow Parkway High School student Danielle Cox. He was accused of using a web site to "text bomb" Danielle, sending her more than 100 text messages in January 2011, encouraging her to kill herself. Hours later, she attempted to overdose on over-the-counter pain pills. She survived, was treated and returned to school, but her parents say she continued to struggle with the pain of the cyberbullying. She took her own life on May 24, 2011.
The cyberbullying charge was later upgraded to felony criminal assistance to suicide. Thomas was set to go to trial on that charge Monday. He would have faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Instead, he pleaded guilty to the original misdemeanor charge of cyberbullying in a deal that will keep him out of jail.
He was sentenced to 6 months, suspended, 1 year of probation and ordered to serve 24 hours of community service per month. Now 19, Thomas was also ordered to either stay in school full-time or have a full-time job and undergo monthly counseling sessions.
During sentencing Monday morning, Bossier district court judge Mike Nerren told Thomas that he could not order remorse or an apology, but he strongly recommended that he "take care of that as soon as possible." To that, Thomas replied that he was "prepared to do that now." Standing, Thomas took a deep breath and said, "I sincerely apologize for what I did," continuing on to say, "I was wrong on January 21, 2011. Nothing was right about it...I'm not proud of my actions. Thank you."
Thomas declined to comment following his sentencing Monday morning. The Cox family says they did not feel that Thomas' courtroom apology was sincere, but they say his sentencing is a step closer to closure.
Following their daughter's death, they created a Facebook group called Smiles for Danielle to raise awareness about what happened to her and to encourage a dialogue about cyber-bullying.
Hear more from the Cox family, and on the one major issue surrounding Thomas' conviction via plea that has yet to be resolved, tonight on KSLA News 12 at 5.