CLATSKANIE, Ore. -- After what she went through, Hailey Walden won't keep quiet anymore. She's bravely come forward to tell her story.
She's now the fourth plaintiff named in a 37-page federal lawsuit filed this year that accuses the Clatskanie School District and former principal Jeff Baughman of knowing about widespread bullying and "sextortion" of several girls and doing nothing to stop it, even after some of the girls attempted suicide.
Within this culture, the lawsuit states male students "preyed on unsuspecting younger females" in what developed into a "game". According to the suit, the "game" was to coerce, collect and share as many nude or sexually explicit images of underage girls as possible, often dubbed "sextortion".
"This needs to stop. It's not fair how people treated me," Walden said. "People can stop making assumptions about it and know the truth."
Her story began in October 2009 in the logging town of Clatskanie with a population of fewer than 2,000. At the time, Walden was 13 and an eighth-grader at Clatskanie Middle/High School. She said a boy at the school sweet-talked her into sending a nude photograph of herself to him.
"We had grown up with each other and he was always the popular cool guy that everyone wanted to date," Walden said. "I was 13, I didn't know. I thought that if I sent him the picture he would think I'm pretty and love me."
Walden said the boy used that photo as leverage and threatened to send it to her parents, friends – or post it online for the world to see – unless she sent more.
"So I sent him more. Which ended up being 30," Walden said.
The pictures went public anyway and, within a week, had circulated throughout the school.
According to the suit, Walden and her mom, Billi Leinonen, said they were called into the principal Jeff Baughman's office to meet with him as well as Clatskanie Police Chief Marvin Hoover to discuss the photos.
According to the complaint, Chief Hoover told Walden she was going to be charged with the creation and distribution of child pornography because she took the photographs. The chief then read Walden her Miranda rights. Walden explained she was receiving threats, but according to the complaint, the chief told her that "unless she could prove the threats, there was no excuse."
"They tried to make it seem like it was all my fault," Walden said.
Walden was never charged. Her mom said it was a cruel scare tactic.
"They chuckled. They thought it was funny," Leinonen said.
No charges were filed against the boy or anyone else.
Two years passed and Walden said her life became a living hell. She said she became the target of relentless taunting and physical abuse by her peers as a result of the photos.
"People were harassing me in class so I would leave class and go hide in the bathrooms or the locker room," she said.
Over time three more girls came forward with stories like Walden's - 'sextorted' into sending nude pictures that were later passed around the school. Josi Harrison, Allysun Harkleroad and Laura Lefebvre are also plaintiffs in the federal suit.
KATU does not typically name underage victims but all agreed to be named in the lawsuit in order to encourage others in the same situation to come forward.
The lawsuit states the plaintiffs reported the alleged 'sextortion' to Principal Baughman several times between 2010 and 2012. They also told him about times they say they were inappropriately touched by the boy at the center of the 'game'. The complaint alleges Baughman failed to discipline the student, stop the game or protect the girls at the school. Instead, the complaint states the district condoned an attitude that "boys will be boys.”
The victims also repeatedly reported the abuse to police, the lawsuit alleges. Plus the victims' attorney argues the police knew about the nude photos since at least one Clatskanie police officer teaches a class at the school. And remember, the complaint states the police chief confronted Walden about the nude photos in 2010.
But the On Your Side Investigators found Clatskanie police didn't launch an investigation until two years after Walden’s first allegations of blackmail. KATU confirmed that investigation wasn't triggered until the boy at the center of it all was accused of attempted rape at Clatskanie Park in 2011.
Why did police wait two years to launch an investigation?
KATU went to the police department to ask. Twice. They were closed both times.
City Manager Greg Hinkleman, who said he doubles as police spokesman, said in a phone interview that the department asked the Oregon State Police (OSP) to help but otherwise refused to offer any more details.
"I really can't add much beyond the 'No comment" due tp (sic) the nature of this suit. Wish I could help further, someday all sides of the story will be told," Hinkelman wrote in an email to the On Your Side Investigators Wednesday evening.
KATU confirmed that Clatskanie Police Department initiated the request for OSP Criminal Investigations Division detective assistance. An OSP spokesman said the Clatskanie Police Department requested a search warrant and said it was served with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies but did not elaborate.
The On Your Side Investigators asked Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison why he didn't pursue charges in any of the 'sextortion' allegations. Before hanging up on a reporter, he said: "We didn't know anything about this until the (attempted rape allegation) happened".
But Atchison also went on record, after the investigation began, to defend the department. He told the Oregonian "There were allegations the police blew this off. I don't think that's true. This is a small town. They don't have the resources everyone does. (But) I remember talking to them multiple times. It just so happens that the youth who was at the center of everything was very digitally sophisticated, and was a step ahead. Just beyond the reach, if you know what I mean."
Since city leaders would not comment, KATU reached out to former Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Josh Lamborn, who's now in private practice in downtown Portland. He worked for the DA's office for 12 years.
"Given what these victims had told them, based on my experience as a deputy DA and working with law enforcement, they would have had probable cause to get a search warrant and they could have gone after any source. They could have gone after the phones, they could have gone after the computers," Lamborn said.
He also pointed out, by law, teachers and police are required to report possible child abuse – like explicit pictures of underage girls – to the Department of Human Services.
"And none of them did. Instead, they did the opposite, they tried to cover it up," Lamborn said.
To this day no one has been charged for the alleged 'sextortion.'
The boy police charged with attempted rape later pleaded down to lesser charges of harassment and public indecency.
Baughman resigned in November.
"Something needs to be done," Walden said. "They think that they can just do stuff without getting in trouble."
To that end, many critics have held the girls accountable for initially sending the photos. Walden's mom said, 'I think Hailey should have - she was held accountable in our home. We get a lot of 'what did the parents do?' She was held accountable."
As for Walden, she said she's doing better. She eventually transferred schools. She's 18 now.
"Since I left Clatskanie, I am a straight-A student and a state champion and I have my life all together," Walden said.
Where to go for help:
A spokesman at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said one of the best weapons parents have to prevent their own children from falling prey to ‘sextortionists’ is awareness – knowing it's easy for kids to get in over their heads online.
The center has a tip line for online threats, Most chat services offer buttons to report abuse. The number is 1-800-843-5678.
The spokesman said children need to know they must talk to an adult if they're uncomfortable, especially at a time when kids spend so much time on their phones and online.