WBUR

Prince Bullying Case Leaves 5 Teens With Probation, Community Service

HADLEY, Mass. — The criminal prosecution that prompted a national debate about how the law should deal with bullying is now over.

In Hadley Thursday, three schoolmates of Phoebe Prince were sentenced to probation and community service after they admitted to taunting and harassing her. Two other teens had agreed to similar settlements on Wednesday. Phoebe Prince committed suicide last year, at the age of 15.

Sharon Velazquez wept while Prince’s mother, Anne O’Brien, told the judge the 17-year-old was getting off easy for the criminal harassment she admitted to.

“Her age allows her to escape any reasonable sentence of community supervision. Hopefully, community service will allow her to reflect on the enormity of her actions, but I’m afraid I’m not sure anything would. She has throughout this case portrayed herself as the victim, not Phoebe,” O’Brien said.

“It is impossible to measure the impact of Phoebe’s death upon our lives.”
– Phoebe Prince's mother, Anne O'Brien

But Velazquez’s lawyer, Colin Keefe, said his client has suffered since the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office decided to prosecute her and the other teenagers for bullying Prince.

“From day one, when these charges came out, she has been ridiculed. Her life has been completely changed,” Keefe said. “She has been stalked. She has been harassed. She has gone through endless, endless…I’m trying to think of the proper word, but public reprimand.”

Prince emigrated to South Hadley from Ireland with her parents. She dated two popular boys at the high school and endured the taunts of girls who resented the bright newcomer. One of the boys she dated joined in humiliating her.

A teen who had dated that boy — Flannery Mullins — admitted violating Prince’s civil rights. In gym class she said, “Someone ought to kick her ass.” Several students heard her making vulgar comments about Prince.

Word spread around South Hadley High School that Mullins planned to fight Prince. As a result, Prince stayed away from school out of fear. She committed suicide in January last year.

“It is impossible to measure the impact of Phoebe’s death upon our lives,” Phoebe’s mother told the judge. “There will be no more reading to Phoebe, no more hearing her lovely soprano voice.

“How do you measure a future that should have been rightfully hers? Phoebe was a beautiful, intelligent, gregarious daughter, with a kind heart, able to show compassion for others.”

O’Brien had more conciliatory words for another of Phoebe’s tormentors, Ashley Longe, who admitted taunting Phoebe the day she died. But O’Brien said Longe was the only teenager who had bullied Phoebe to ask for a meeting.

“Although I’m not dismissing how she treated Phoebe, she, from the outset, has been the only one to acknowledge her actions, and I would like the court to know that she is the only one of the charged students that agreed to speak to the police on multiple occasions, truthfully addressing her own actions and those of others,” O’Brien said.

Ever since Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel decided to prosecute the bullies, the office has been criticized for criminalizing what some saw as normal teenage behavior. Thursday, Scheibel’s successor, David Sullivan, stood by the decision to prosecute.

“These cases were not overcharged. These cases were brought because of the evidence that was available at that point in time to the Scheibel administration. That administration looked at the facts and evidence,” Sullivan said. “We did the same, and we brought these charges in accordance with what the facts and evidence were, and also the wishes of the family.”

Sullivan announced Thursday that — at the request of Phoebe’s parents — his office is dropping charges of statutory rape against one of the teenagers, Austin Renaud, who dated Phoebe Prince.

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  • Kbeau5

    “Normal teenage behavior”???? What a sad commentary that anyone would think the meanness displayed by these kids is “normal.” I wish their sentences included some form of therapy.

  • http://www.kathrynlively.com K. Lively

    Justice was not done here. I can think of a more suitable punishment for these people.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JVUVRISQZYPR6QAR7GEMDF3BAQ jambo

    There is NOTHING worse than a bully. They grow into adult bullies, breaking laws and lives. I agree, justice was NOT done here. The fact that one of the bullies portrayed herself as the victim all along is typical of the problem. They feel they are above the law.

  • Guest

    Justice surely was not done. Just goes to show you how our 2 prong UNJUSTICE WORKS. Had the teens been Black or Latino, they would have been charged with felonies and their future life virtually destroyed. There are many charges the DA could have chosen to file. Many of these DA’s, Judges, and Lawyers’s themselves should be charged with HATE crimes themselves, as everyday that are prosecuting Blacks and Latinos’s to the full extent of the law. There is 79% of whites in America vs 13% Blacks, yet 80% of Blacks are incarcerated for crimes, many of which years later some are found to have been innocent. What wrong with this biased picture.

    • Ray

      Okay, put away the deck of race cards. This isn’t about race. It’s about inept lawyers, judges and juries making the usual idiotic decisions.

    • Speciblend

      There’s always one fool that wants to bring race into the story when it has nothing to do with it. What a joke, people like you bring nothing to the table.

  • Frank

    I agree wit he prosecutor, the amount of evidence is ovewhelming, Teeangers ought to stop harrassing people , bullies sometimes become criminals.

  • Frank

    Probation should’ve been longer, like 10 or 15 years, bullying is like a cancer, it grows with age.

  • Andy

    These teens are criminals in every sense of the word. The lesson they’ve learned here is that causing the death of an innocent isn’t murder, when in fact it is. If an adult harrasses another eventually causing their death, regardless of the means, he or she is tried for that murder and hopefully punnished accordingly. These brats harrassed a fellow human being and were the direct cause of a girl’s suicide…that’s murder and they got away with it, pure and simple! Justice my ass!

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t you cover the type of bullying called mobbing and gangstalking? It seems only two news stations have ever covered this type of bullying. The police are in on this type of bullying and so are the firemen and doctors, according to some sites about this. This type of bullying leads to suicide, too. Why is it almost never in the news? http://bit.ly/iQPOLm

  • Avivak1971

    Thank you, WBUR, for excellent coverage of Phoebe Prince. And thank you for this time omitting that heartless writer from Salon.

  • Chris

    Those Students killed Phobe Prince with words ! and even bragged about it     P.O.S !!

    Black or White there is  INJUSTICE  done by THE LAWYERS ,THE COURT , THE TEACHERS, THE SCHOOL SYSTEM .

    The Courts slap on the wrist to the students responsible  SENDS THE WRONG MESSAGE TO BULLIES OF TOMORROW, THAT THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH THIS BEHAVIOUR  AND NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

    This is one of the reasons why Americas Youth, has so many GUNS !

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