16-year-old Channing Smith was described by family as “the sweetest kid ever from birth.” (Screenshot: News Channel 5)
A bisexual teenager took his own life after he was outed online, but the anti-gay district attorney is refusing to bring criminal charges against those who outed him.
16-year-old Channing Smith, from Manchester, Tennessee, had confided in a few friends that he was bisexual, but this was not widely known.
After a disagreement with a classmate, screenshots of sexually explicit messages between Smith and another boy were shared on Snapchat and Instagram.
On Sunday, September 22, Smith tragically took his own life.
His family had been urging Coffee County district attorney Craig Northcott to bring charges against the teens that outed Smith, but they had doubts because of Northcott’s anti-LGBT+ record.
The district attorney previously faced criticism for saying he wouldn’t prosecute in cases of LGBT+ domestic violence because he doesn’t “recognise it as marriage.”
According to LGBTQ Nation, he has also previously said he that would not prosecute county clerks in the state who denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Despite the pressure from Smith’s family, according to The Tennessean Northcott said in a statement on Tuesday November 26: “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.”
Smith’s family did not directly blame Northcott, but instead called for the modernisation of laws to provide repercussions for minors like the ones who outed Smith.
The teen’s brother, Joshua Smith, also told The Tennessean: “Supposedly there’s not laws in place that affect minors, and harassment and bullying have to show a pattern.
“Hopefully we can get more modern laws in place. My main concern is it’s going to send a mixed message to these kids that they can do what they want and there’s not repercussions.”
He previously described his brother as “the sweetest kid ever from birth,” and insisted the family would have accepted him no matter what as long as he was happy.
In August, Lambda Legal, Tennessee Equality Project, and Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center of Rutherford County, Tennessee, filed a formal complaint against Northcott with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, arguing that he would not “seek justice and make charging decisions free from discrimination or bias.”