Prosecutors have moved to try Grover as an adult, the Florida State Attorney’s Office for Escambia County confirmed. Grover was 17 when she was charged with felonies in March but turned 18 last month.
“Whatever punishments that could have been imposed [by a juvenile court], there’s a limited period of time that those would have been able to stay in effect,” said Greg Marcille, chief assistant state attorney.
Carroll and Grover, of Cantonment, Fla., about 18 miles north of Pensacola, are charged with offenses against computer users, criminal use of personally identifiable information, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and conspiracy to commit those offenses.
Carroll has pleaded not guilty and has a trial scheduled for August, court records show. Grover’s attorney, Randall Etheridge, who also represents Carroll, said Grover has also pleaded not guilty.
Days after Grover was elected Tate High School’s homecoming queen on Oct. 30, the Escambia County School District contacted law enforcement to report unauthorized access to student accounts, as The Washington Post previously reported. Hundreds of votes had been flagged as suspicious, including 117 that came from the same IP address within a short period.
Carroll, 50, and Grover were soon suspected of involvement. In her role at Bellview Elementary School, Carroll had broad access to the district’s student information software. Election Runner, an application used to count votes, said it had received an ethics complaint alleging that Grover had used her mother’s account to cast fake votes for herself.
School board members confronted Carroll with the allegations. She responded that she had given her daughter access to her student information account in the past, the arrest warrant says.
Grover gave her own version of events the next day. “I have had access to my mothers account,” she allegedly wrote to the school board. “My mother knows nothing about this, she has in the past.”
When Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents visited the district’s offices, administrators said they had heard that Grover was telling other people that she had used her mother’s account to cast votes, the warrant says. Nine students and teachers gave written statements claiming that Grover had talked about using the account or that they had seen her access it during her time in high school.
“I have known that Emily Grover logs in to her moms school account in order to access grades and test scores since freshman year when we became friends,” one student wrote, according to the arrest warrant. “She has looked up my student ID before in order to tell me what I got on my FSA [Florida Standards Assessments] and ACT [American College Test].”
Another witness wrote that Grover had logged in to her mom’s account during her sophomore-year reading class to share grades and other information.
“She did not seem like logging in was a big deal and seemed very comfortable doing so,” the witness wrote, according to the warrant.
The district’s information technology manager then conducted an analysis of Carroll’s account and the fake homecoming votes.
Of the 372 high school students’ records that Carroll had accessed in the past year, 339 were allegedly from Grover’s school. Carroll had accessed the records of 212 students from that school in October alone, prosecutors allege. And of 39 false homecoming queen votes, Carroll had allegedly looked at every one of those students’ accounts in the month before the election.
In late November, prosecutors say they found that an IP address linked to Carroll and Grover’s home had been used to cast 122 flagged votes. Another IP address, connected to Carroll’s phone, had been used to enter 124 ballots, prosecutors say.
Contesting her expulsion, Grover allegedly wrote to Superintendent Timothy Smith that she had been suspended for 10 days “for unauthorized use of technology, using my mom’s password and looking at information I should not have seen. … I 100% knew it was wrong and would do anything to undo it but I had no idea that this much trouble could come from this.”
Carroll allegedly took responsibility in her own statement fighting the expulsion: “Emily is guilty of looking at information in my FOCUS [program] account, but the hundreds of students she is alleged to have looked at were viewed by me, with district administrator access. It is because of my negligence that she saw anything in FOCUS that she was unauthorized to view.”
Law enforcement agents went to Carroll’s home in February to talk with her. When Carroll answered the door, the warrant says, she replied that she would defer questions to her lawyer.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that juvenile courts lose jurisdiction over defendants when they turn 18. Florida’s juvenile courts maintain jurisdiction until defendants are 19. This story has been updated.