Sharon Chanon Velazquez, one of six teens charged in the Massachusetts bullying case of a 15-year-old Irish immigrant who committed suicide last January, spoke out on the Today Show last week, saying she's "not a bully" and "not a mean person."
Velazquez was sentenced in April to two months of probation after five of the six teens reached a plea agreement with prosecutors -- they originally pleaded not guilty. Officials said the teens relentlessly bullied Phoebe Prince, calling her names like "Irish whore" and "stupid slut," and posting mean comments on her Facebook page.
Prosecutors said Velazquez and her friends were angry with Prince for her relationship with one of the bullying teens' on-and-off boyfriend, Auston Renaud. Renaud and another teen from the group faced charges for statutory rape. Court records say the teens threatened to beat up Prince and had cornered her in a school bathroom.
Prince was so afraid of being jumped that she walked between two friends in the halls of South Hadley High School for protection, The Boston Herald reports. Prince hanged herself in the stairwell of her family's apartment.
Velazquez told the Today Show's Ann Curry that she was just trying to help her friend, who had the ambiguous relationship with Renaud, and didn't know Prince "had so many problems."
"And if I had known that, then I would have gotten out of my way and tried to help her instead of saying the things I said to her," Velazquez said. "I was trying to help out a friend, and people don't understand that, and I want them to know that. And they're going around saying things that aren't true, and saying that I stalked her and that I bullied her, and that wasn't the case at all, we argued."
The now 18-year-old Velazquez acknowledged that some of what she said to Prince were "unnecessary, and you know, mean," but still just called their interaction bickering.
She also pointed out that as a result of the case, Velazquez herself has become the target of prolific bullying. Her peers have demanded that she transfer, and she's received several death threats, she said. She added that the case has also forced her to halt her pursuit in modeling.
Velazquez's probation ended this month because the Juvenile Court's dominion over her expired when she turned 18. Prince's mother Anne O'Brien said in May that the probation escaped "any reasonable sentence of court supervision," The Republican reported.
"I'm not a mean person. I think I'm really caring. I care a lot because I went out of my way to help out my friend, and I didn't mean to hurt somebody, or say the things I said to them," Velazquez told Curry.
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