Phoebe

Outrage as Phoebe's tormentors are given light sentences

BOSTON --- The teenagers who bullied Phoebe Prince for months before she hanged herself on January 14, 2010 were given probation and community service last week in Northampton Superior Court under a plea agreement approved by Prince's mother, Anne O'Brien.

The sentences brought to an end to the tragic saga of the 15-year-old student who had immigrated to Massachusetts with her family from County Clare.

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Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey, both 18, were sentenced Wednesday to one year's probation and 100 hours of community service for criminal harassment.

Sharon Velazquez, 17, Flannery Mullins, 18, and Ashley Longe, 18, were given probation on Thursday, while charges of statutory rape against a sixth teen, Austin Renaud, were dropped at the request of the Prince family.

In a tearful victim impact statement, O'Brien spoke about the horror that her daughter endured prior to her death.

"I can only imagine the pain she felt at his (Mulveyhill's) unrelenting desire to harass and humiliate her," O'Brien told a hushed courtroom.

"Had I known the truth, I would have viewed (his) relationship with her as predatory....There is a dead weight that is now permanently in my chest. It is an unbearable pain, and it will stay with me until my own death..."

Prosecutors said that the harassment of Prince stemmed from brief dating relationships she had with Mulveyhill, who was a football star at South Hadley High School, and Renaud.

They said Mulveyhill urged his friends to taunt Prince after he ended his casual relationship with her.

In her emotional statement to the court, O'Brien read from some of her daughter's final text messages to a friend.

"I think Sean condoning this is one of the final nails in my coffin," Prince wrote. "I can't take much more....It would be easier if he or any one of them handed me a noose."

Mulveyhill said virtually nothing during the proceedings and showed little emotion, but Narey, who was his girlfriend when the bullying occurred, expressed remorse in a tearful statement she read in court.

"My behavior in the days leading up to Phoebe's death was unacceptable," she said. "I was the weak one, and that failure will always be with me. I am sorry, Phoebe. I am sorry about the unkind things I said to others about you. I am sorry about the unkind posting on my Facebook page. But mostly I am sorry for January 14, 2010 in the library and in the hallway when I laughed when someone else was shouting humiliating things at you...."

The modest sentences meted out to the teens sparked expressions of outrage on local radio shows and in some newspaper columns, but Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan defended the sentences during a press conference.

"They have paid the price in the media and public arena," he said. "They will have this on their backs for the rest of their lives. Worse, they will have it on their conscience."

Sullivan said that the prosecution team brought "mercy, compassion and understanding" to the case, which he said was in accord with the desires of the Prince family.

"The legacy of Phoebe Prince will be that schools are safe," he said. "The era of turning a blind eye to bullying and harassment is over."

Prince's death resulted in tough new Massachusetts legislation which requires school employees to report bullying to administrators, who in turn must report the cases to police if warranted.

The five teens had faced felony and misdemeanor charges, including civil rights violations causing bodily injury, criminal harassment, and disruption of a school assembly. Two had also faced charges of stalking Prince while statutory rape charges against two were also dropped.

Critical press reaction included this from columnist Margery Eagan in the Boston Herald: "Here's the message District Attorney David Sullivan sent to bullies yesterday: You can taunt and harass and threaten and terrorize another human being even to death - and get away with it. And Judge Jeffrey Kinder signed right on."