5 Teens Strike Plea Deal In Phoebe Prince Bullying Case
BOSTON -- Five teenagers have agreed to plead guilty to a minor charge in the bullying of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who later committed suicide.
A lawyer for one of the teens filed documents Tuesday indicating a plea agreement had been reached with prosecutors. A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press about the other four plea deals on Wednesday.
The five plea deals are expected to be presented in court next week, where they must be approved by a judge, said the person, who has direct knowledge of the discussions but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the case.
The teens are charged in the bullying of Phoebe Prince, an Irish immigrant who hanged herself in her family's South Hadley apartment last year after what a prosecutor called a "relentless" campaign of bullying that included yelling "Irish whore" at her in the school library, posting demeaning comments about her on Facebook and threatening to beat her up.
Prince's death drew international attention and was among several high-profile teen suicides that lead to new laws aimed at cracking down on bullying in schools.
The five teens are expected to plead guilty to criminal harassment, a misdemeanor. In exchange, prosecutors will drop more serious charges, including civil rights violations. The harassment charge carries a maximum of 2 1/2 years in a county jail, but the teens could receive probation, said the person familiar with the talks.
Terrence Dunphy, a lawyer for a sixth teen, Austin Renaud, said he has not reached an agreement with prosecutors to resolve the case against his client. Renaud was charged with statutory rape, but not with bullying Prince.
Lawyers for the other teens did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the lawyer for Sharon Chanon Velazquez, 17, filed documents in court indicating a plea agreement had been reached with prosecutors.
Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan issued a statement Tuesday saying his office anticipates that "there may be significant developments in one or more of the cases" next week, when the five teens are due in court. Sullivan's spokeswoman, Mary Carey, said Wednesday that he would not comment on the cases.
Velazquez and two other girls are charged in juvenile court with stalking, criminal harassment and civil rights violations. The older teens – Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey – are charged as adults.
Prosecutors say Velazquez and friends Flannery Mullins and Ashley Longe began harassing Prince because she had a brief relationship with Renaud, who was Mullins' on-and-off boyfriend.
Renaud and Mulveyhill were charged with statutory rape for allegedly having sexual contact with Prince.