No charges will be filed in the death of a 16-year-old boy in Tennessee who died by suicide back in September after sexually explicit text messages he’d exchanged with another boy were leaked on social media.
Channing Smith was reportedly horrified after he learned his classmates knew about the private messages he’d sent to another teenager, which outed Smith as bisexual. Hours after finding out his messages had been leaked, Channing (pictured above) was found dead. And now, a highly controversial Tennessee District Attorney has decided not to file charges in the case, further harming Smith’s loved ones.
Days after the teenager died back in September, Smith’s older brother Joshua penned a Facebook post entitled “Being gay shouldn’t be a death sentence,” in which he wrote more about the circumstances that led to the apparent 16-year-old’s outing and death (below):
“My brother committed suicide because of the actions of 2 kids that he trusted that turned personal screenshot messages over to social media in a deliberate attempt to assassinate his character.”
Channing’s untimely death and the circumstances surrounding it went viral at the time, too; country singer Billy Ray Cyrus arranged for Smith’s family to meet with First Lady Melania Trump to talk about cyberbullying, and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg shared his condolences on social media.
But now, the story has taken another unfortunate turn after Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott released a statement announcing he would not be filing criminal charges in the case after investigating the text message link and its possible connection to Channing’s suicide.
In a public statement released this week, Northcott said:
“Upon the completion of the full investigation into the circumstances of Channing Smith’s death by the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department and this office and after a review of the criminal statutes of this state, I have determined that there is not probable cause to believe that any crimes have been committed in this tragic situation. Thus no criminal charges or juvenile petitions will be sought by this office. The family remains in my prayers and I hope that all of Channing’s friends and family can find peace in this difficult time.”
Normally, that’s what district attorneys do — investigate cases, determine whether to bring charges, etc., etc., but in Northcott’s case, controversy is bubbling over because he’s the same D.A. who made headlines a year ago when he shared virulently anti-gay views and comments at a Bible conference! WTF?!
Local station WZTV in Tennessee reports back in 2018, Northcott said he “didn’t believe” in gay marriage, and promised to the conference crowd same-sex partners “wouldn’t receive any protections” from domestic violence laws. Seriously?! The comments were so out of line, Northcott is currently being investigated by the state Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility — and it’s possible he’ll lose his law license over the issue.
For now, he remains the District Attorney in Coffee County, and what he says goes — at least so far as deciding whether or not to prosecute teenagers after Channing’s death. Still, the late teen’s mother Crystal is already determined to change the laws on cyberbullying, no matter whether Northcott is in office in the future or not.
She told People about her determination:
“Until those laws can be changed to make situations like this a prosecutable offense, people will continue to assassinate others’ characters online without fear of charges. That is unacceptable. No family should have to go through this.”
Amen to THAT…
At least somebody in Coffee County is concerned about justice for all because we’re not sure about the District Attorney.