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3 more pleas, no jail time in Massachusetts bullying case

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Teens get probation for bullying
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Five teenagers have now admitted involvement in the bullying case
  • Phoebe Prince, 15, hanged herself after enduring weeks of ridicule and teasing
  • "Bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in our schools," says prosecutor

(CNN) -- Three more teenagers admitted Thursday that they took part in bullying a 15-year-old schoolmate who subsequently committed suicide, a Massachusetts prosecutor said. But, as was the case the day before with two other teens involved in the hazing of Phoebe Prince, the more serious charges were dismissed and none of them will serve jail time.

Ashley Longe and Flannery Mullins, 18, and Sharon Velazquez, 17, admitted to sufficient facts on charges related to the harassment of Prince, who hanged herself in the stairwell of her parents' apartment in South Hadley on January 14, 2010, after weeks of ridicule and teasing at the hands of classmates, prosecutors said.

On the day she died, Prince had endured a torrent of verbal abuse that began at the school library that continued as she walked home from school in tears, prosecutors said.

Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court Judge Daniel Swords accepted admissions from Longe and Velazquez on charges of criminal harrassment, a misdemeanor, and continued their cases without a finding until their next birthdays. Conditions of their probations include prohibitions on contacting the dead girl's family or profiting from the case, and community service with at-risk or underprivileged youth. Longe was also ordered to work toward completion of her GED.

Flannery Mullins, 18, admitted to sufficient facts on a civil rights misdemeanor charge and disturbance of a school assembly, said prosecution spokeswoman Mary Eliza Carey. The judge accepted her admission in a recommendation that the civil rights charge be continued without a finding until her next birthday. She, too, will have probation until her next birthday and will be required to perform community service.

2010: Phoebe Prince's school responds
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Both Velazquez and Longe were charged with civil rights violation with bodily injury and disturbing a school assembly in addition to the criminal harassment charges. Longe also was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Mullins also was charged with criminal harassment and stalking. All of those charges were dismissed.

"The defendants in these five cases have accepted responsibility for their actions and admitted that they engaged in criminal conduct toward Phoebe Prince in the weeks, days and hours before she took her life," said David Sullivan, district attorney for the Northwestern District, said in a statement.

A charge of disturbing a school assembly is to be continued without a finding for three months as long as she has no contact with the victim's family, does not profit from the case while on probation, performs 100 hours of community service with at-risk or underprivileged youths and works toward obtaining her GED, Carey said.

On Wednesday, two other classmates, Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey, entered guilty pleas on criminal harassment charges in Hampshire Superior Court, where the 18-year-olds were charged as adults. They each received one year of probation with stipulations similar to those meted out on Thursday in juvenile court.

Narey had also faced charges of civil rights violation resulting in bodily injury and disturbing a school assembly; Mulveyhill, who had dated Prince, had faced similar charges, plus statutory rape. Those charges were dismissed.

A criminal charge against a sixth defendant, 19-year-old Austin Renaud, was dismissed Thursday afternoon at the request of Prince's family "and in the interests of justice," Sullivan said.

On the day she died, Prince was loudly berated in the South Hadley High School library. She was taunted again as school let out, and as she walked home crying, one of the students called Prince names and tossed an empty can at her from a car, according to the 38-page court filing. By 4:55 p.m. that day, she had hanged herself.

Court documents show that, the day before she died, she told a friend, "School has been close to intolerable lately."

Prosecutors said Prince, who had moved to Massachusetts from Ireland earlier in the school year, had gone out with boys who also dated two of her alleged tormentors, who in retaliation called her names, including "whore" and "Irish slut." According to prosecutors, the tormenting began when Mulveyhill returned to his former girlfriend, Narey.

According to CNN affiliate WWLP, prosecutors said Mulveyhill encouraged Velazquez, Long and Mullins to relentlessly harass Prince. Court documents say Longe threw an energy drink at Prince and screamed at her. Mullins allegedly threatened to beat Prince. In court on Thursday, the assistant district attorney said that Prince had missed classes out of fear that Mullins would harm her.

A witness is quoted in a court document as telling investigators, "She definitely didn't want to fight with the girls in the school. She just wanted to keep to herself and keep things the way they were. She wanted people to stop picking on her, to stop being bullied. She wanted people to leave her alone. She wanted people to stop spreading rumors and stop the girls from talking about her."

Darby O'Brien, a friend of Prince's family, said Wednesday that students should not have to bear "all of the weight and all of the blame" for Prince's death.

"They were kids in high school; kids do things out of whack," he said. "But no one has held the professionals -- from the superintendent to principal on down -- (responsible) for what happened as well."

South Hadley Public Schools Superintendent Gus Sayer has defended school administrators' handling of the matter, saying Prince had not told anyone about her situation. He said school officials began to take action when teachers saw the bullying themselves and heard about it from other students.

Sullivan said the prosecution "signifies that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in our schools; and when it rises to the level of criminal conduct, as it did in these five cases, those responsible will be prosecuted."

As a result of this and another case, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bullying prevention law that requires schools to train staff and devise a system for reporting and responding to complaints of bullying.

CNN's Brian Vitagliano and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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