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Accused excused in Prince case arraignment

BOSTON - Lawyers for the teenagers accused of stalking and bullying Phoebe Prince for weeks before her suicide in January appeared in court Tuesday on their behalf, having successfully invoked the rights of the accused to waive their appearances at their arraignment.

And a lawyer for one of the accused is publicly calling for patience and restraint on the part of an outraged public that is demanding justice for the deceased 15-year-old Irish immigrant.

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Northampton lawyer, Colin Keefe, who represents Sharon Chanon Velazquez, said in a press statement that his client “has been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.”

He said that Velazquez is “a young adult, a child really, who is being swept up in circumstances that are beyond normal experiences. The full and true details involving this most unfortunate event have not been made public....I ask for patience from the public and the press.”

Angry parents, however, continue to call for the ouster of the South Hadley school superintendent, Gus Sayer, who is suggesting that a rush to judgment is occurring in the case.

In addition to the stalking and civil rights violations, statutory rape charges have been filed against two of the male teens, Sean Mulveyhill and Austin Renaud, who allegedly had brief sexual encounters with Prince, who had moved with her family to South Hadley from County Clare.

When those relationships ended, a number of female students, and at least one male student, allegedly began their vicious taunting of Prince, calling her an “Irish slut” and other derogatory names.

Northwestern District Attorney, Elizabeth Scheibel, told reporters last week that some of the staff at the South Hadley high school knew about the bullying, but did little or nothing to stop it.

She called the inaction of faculty members “troublesome” while concluding that their behavior, unlike that of the accused students, did not rise to the level of criminal conduct.

The Boston Herald reported that in the final months of Phoebe Prince’s short life, it was “open season on the vulnerable high school freshman as an evil brood of cruel teens allegedly orchestrated a series of vicious attacks - carried out at times in front of school staff who failed to step in and protect her.”

According to the paper, superintendent Sayer defended a staff member who was allegedly present when Prince was attacked while studying in the library during lunch - hours before she went home and hanged herself.

He said a staff member was present but did not see or overhear the alleged attack.