FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Deerfield Beach beating victim Josie Lou Ratley was being a bully and should apologize to the teenage boy who nearly beat her to death, the boy's mother and stepfather said to a national TV audience Friday.
Ratley, 16, suffered irreversible brain damage in the March 17, 2010, assault at a Deerfield Beach Middle School bus stop. Wayne Treacy, who knocked her to the ground and stomped on her head repeatedly while wearing steel-toe boots, plans to mount an insanity defense against a first-degree attempted murder charge when his trial starts Jan. 26.
Prosecutors say he tried to kill Ratley, now 16, hours after a hostile text message exchange that boiled over when Ratley told him to visit his dead brother, who had committed suicide by hanging five months earlier.
"I believe Josie bullied Wayne," said his mother, Donna Powers, during a recorded segment on NBC's "Today" show that aired Friday. In a live segment that followed, she backed off that characterization. "To say she's a 'bully' may not be the correct word," she said. "Maybe she antagonized him, (egged) him on. I don't know the right word there."
Treacy's stepfather, Cary Smith, also criticized Ratley's role in the text exchange. "It's a bullying type situation," he said during the recorded segment. Asked who the bully was, Smith replied, "Well, who started the nasty emails?"
Powers, who apologized for her son's actions shortly after the incident, said she'd like to see Ratley apologize to her son for her words.
The beating left Ratley brain damaged and comatose. She has since partially recovered and moved away from Deerfield Beach.
"The bully in this case is behind bars, where he belongs," said her lawyer, Sean Domnick. "There was nothing done or said by anyone to justify what he did."
A transcript shows the virtual conversation started off on the wrong foot and quickly degenerated into vulgar name-calling in both directions and threats of violence from Treacy even before the dead brother was mentioned.
Prosecutors say Treacy knew what he was doing and had time to cool off. Instead, he bicycled three miles to Deerfield Middle, found Ratley, knocked her to the ground and stomped on her head repeatedly before he was finally stopped by a teacher who tackled him to the ground.
His defense lawyer, Russell Williams, says Treacy was temporarily insane, in a state of "dissociative fugue" brought on by post-traumatic-stress disorder.
"No matter what Josie did, she didn't deserve what happened," said Williams. "She was clearly unaware of the mental state Wayne was in. In fact, Wayne was unaware of his mental state."
Treacy turns 17 on Saturday. Monday will mark the second anniversary of his brother's suicide.
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