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Judge threatens crowbar teen with jail

Teen was contacting witnesses and victim

Jessie Umberger, 18.
Jessie Umberger, 18. (Brevard County Sheriff's Office)

VIERA, Fla. – Circuit Judge James Earp admonished one of three teens charged with attacking a classmate and nearly killing him for contacting witnesses and even attempting to contact the victim through a third party.

[VIDEO:  Courtroom Video]

"It's easier to keep you in jail if that's what needs to happen," Earp told 18-year-old Jessie Umberger Thursday during a hearing to clarify the conditions of her bond. "You need to stop contacting the witnesses and you need to stop contacting anyone else that has anything to do with this case."

Local 6 News partner Florida Today says Umberger was charged with first-degree premeditated attempted murder, along with 18-year-old Rebecca Gotay and 17-year-old Dylan Thomas, for the crowbar beating of 17-year-old Daniel Vukovich on Feb. 19. The trio alleged that Vukovich had ripped off Thomas of about $4,000 worth of marijuana.

According to police, Thomas carried out the physical attack while Gotay and Umberger participated in the planning, the disposal of the weapon and the getaway. They were arrested the following day after numerous friends told police they had received incriminating text messages from Umberger. A fourth teen, who was invited to participate but declined, also told police about the plot.

Prosecutors filed a motion for Earp to revoke the girl's bond after they learned she had contacted one witness in the case and another "friend" who had just visited the victim.

"Ever since she's been out there has been a pushing of limitations," argued Assistant State Attorney Kari Kies. "On April 30 or 31st she not only contacted a witness but a friend of the victim. That friend had just left the victim's home. It's someone she hadn't spoken to in two years and they don't get along, so it was very coincidental this contact happened. It's not a technical violation but it's concerning to the family."

With a no-Internet stipulation as part of Umberger's bond, her attorney Tamara Meister asked the judge to waive it for the sake of taking online classes.

"That's a problem for me because the allegations in this case involve computers and social media," he said. "Find her a tutor."