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Sharon Chanon Velazquez Strikes Plea Deal In Phoebe Prince Bullying Case

Sharon Velazquez Phoebe Prince Bullying

By STEPHANIE REITZ   04/26/11 08:35 PM ET   AP

HARTFORD, Conn. -- One of six teens charged in the notorious Massachusetts bullying case of a 15-year-old Irish immigrant who committed suicide has struck a plea agreement with prosecutors, according to new court documents.

If accepted by a judge, 17-year-old Sharon Chanon Velazquez's plea deal would be the first criminal case resolved in connection with South Hadley High School freshman Phoebe Prince's suicide.

Prosecutors said Tuesday in a written statement that they expect "significant developments in one or more of the cases," though they would not discuss Velazquez's potential plea deal or the status of discussions with the other defendants' attorneys.

Prince hanged herself in January 2010 in her family's apartment after what prosecutors call a relentless campaign of bullying by other students that included slurs about her Irish heritage, insults on Facebook and threats to beat her up.

Velazquez and four other teens were charged two months after her death with offenses connected to the alleged bullying, and a sixth teen was charged with statutory rape for allegedly having sexual contact with the underage girl.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Prince's death was among several teen suicides nationwide attributed to bullying, and her experiences were cited in Massachusetts and nationwide as legislatures considered or approved new laws cracking down on the harassment.

Velazquez and two other teenage girls are charged in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court with stalking, criminal harassment and violation of Prince's civil rights. The other three teens were older when they were charged, and their cases are pending in nearby Hampshire Superior Court.

Terms of the 17-year-old Velazquez's potential plea deal were not disclosed in the motion filed Tuesday in juvenile court, where her attorney and prosecutors are scheduled to present it to a judge for consideration on May 5.

Messages left Tuesday for her attorney were not immediately returned.

According to prosecutors, Velazquez and two friends, Flannery Mullins and Ashley Longe, were angry over Prince's brief relationship with Austin Renaud, Mullins' on-and-off boyfriend.

Renaud and another teen, Sean Mulveyhill, face statutory rape charges for allegedly having sexual contact with Prince. Mulveyhill and his ex-girlfriend, Kayla Narey, also face the same civil rights charge levied against Longe, Velazquez and Mullins.

Longe and Mullins are scheduled to appear in juvenile court a few hours after Velazquez on May 5.

Narey is scheduled to appear May 4 for a status hearing in Hampshire Superior Court. Mulveyhill is on the docket one day later, and Renaud returns to court in July.

Renaud's lawyer, Terrence Dunphy, said Tuesday he has not been in plea talks with prosecutors.

"My client has been unable to resolve his matters," Dunphy said, declining to comment on Velazquez's agreement.

A message was left for Prince's family attorney, and her aunt, Eileen Prince of Springfield, declined to comment when reached Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Messages left Tuesday for the other teens' attorneys also were not immediately returned.

Velazquez was described by prosecutors as showing "a pattern of assaultive conduct" toward Phoebe that included crude insults and threats of violence, including one for which she served a one-day school suspension.

Longe is charged with yelling crude comments, such as "Irish whore" and "stupid slut," at Prince in the school library a few hours before her suicide. Longe also threw an aluminum can at Prince and yelled insults again as the freshman walked home that afternoon, authorities said in court records.

The court records accuse Mullins of threatening to beat up Prince, cornering her in a school bathroom, repeatedly calling her an "Irish slut" and posting demeaning comments about her on Facebook.

In addition to the charges they face in public juvenile court proceedings, prosecutors said Longe, Mullins and Velazquez also face separate delinquency cases that list the same alleged offenses plus criminal harassment charges. Longe also is charged under delinquency statutes with assault, according to court records and prosecutors.

Had the teens been charged only under delinquency laws and not as youthful offenders, their identities would have been confidential.

___

Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Boston contributed to this report.

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Filed by Erica Liepmann  |