A teenager accused of rigging a homecoming queen election with her mother will be charged as an adult and could face 16 years in prison, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Emily Rose Grover was 17 years old when she was arrested in March for multiple felony charges, but she turned 18 in April. The State Attorney’s Office in Escambia County, Florida, confirmed to ABC News that she will be tried as an adult.
Prosecutors allege she and her 50-year-old mother, Laura Rose Carroll, rigged the competition by hacking into a school district computer system.
An investigation was launched in November 2020 when the Escambia County School District reported unauthorized access into hundreds of student accounts, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said in a statement.
In October 2020, hundreds of votes in Tate High School’s Homecoming Court were flagged as fraudulent, with 117 “originating from the same IP address within a short period of time,” the agency said.
“The investigation found that Carroll, an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School, and her daughter, a student at Tate High School, had accessed student FOCUS accounts,” added the statement. FOCUS designates the school district’s student information system.
“Agents uncovered evidence of unauthorized access to FOCUS linked to Carroll’s cell phone as well as computers associated with their residence, with a total of 246 votes cast for the Homecoming Court,” said the FDLE.
According to NorthEscambia.com Grover was named Tate High School’s homecoming queen in October of 2020.
“She looks up all of our group of friends’ grades and makes comments about how she can find our test scores all of the time,” one student told investigators, according to an arrest warrant affidavit seen by ABC News.
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Carroll was booked into the Escambia County Jail, the FDLE confirmed. She was also suspended from her job, officials told the Associated Press.
Grover was taken into custody and transferred to the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Officials said she had since been expelled from the Tate High School.
Both mother and daughter have each been charged with offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices; unlawful use of a two-way communications device; criminal use of personally identifiable information and conspiracy to commit those offenses.
Carroll was released on a $6,000 bond and Grover on a $2,000 bond, according to ABC News. They each face a maximum 16-year sentence.
The women’s defense attorney, Randall Etheridge, said he has filed written not-guilty pleas with the court.
“These are good people. They’re not crazy as some people are trying to depict them. They’re basically decent people,” Etheridge told ABC News.
Mother and daughter are scheduled to be arraigned in the First Judicial Circuit Court in Pensacola on May 14.
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