Read the rest of Emily Bazelon's series on cyberbullying.
The criminal cases against six teenagers that followed the suicide of Phoebe Prince are over.
In a second day of hearings, three more teens admitted facts to support misdemeanor offenses. They each received probation and community service. And Judge Daniel J. Swords continued each of their cases, which means that if they complete their probation successfully, they will have clean records. The serious felony charges against them were dropped.
Without a hearing, prosecutors also dropped the outstanding charge against a fourth teen, Austin Renaud, who was never accused of bullying Prince but who was indicted for statutory rape based on allegations that he had sex with Prince when she was 15 and he was 18—an accusation he has consistently denied.
The tense, at times tearful proceedings that packed a juvenile court in Hadley, Mass., began with the hearing for Sharon Chanon Velazquez, now 17. Velazquez was charged with serious felonies after reports that she participated last year in the bullying of Prince at South Hadley High School, when Prince was a 15-year-old freshman and Velazquez a sophomore. Velazquez admitted to harassing Prince. Prosecutor Steven Gagne set forth the facts agreed to by the defense and the prosecution. Early in 2010, he said, Velazquez approached Prince in a hallway at school and called her a disparaging name, loud enough for other students to hear. Then on Jan. 8, Velazquez approached Phoebe in the lunchroom, called her names again, and also aggressively and loudly told her to stay away from Flannery Mullins' boyfriend, Austin Renaud. Later that day, Gagne said, Velazquez again approached Prince, this time in her Latin class. "Velazquez berated Prince in front of other students," Gagne said, and one student witness said Prince was "physically upset." Prince told one of the vice principals at South Hadley High what had happened. When he spoke to Velazquez, she admitted confronting Phoebe in Latin class.
Flannery Mullins, now 18, admitted to disturbing a school assembly (meaning a gathering of students) and to a misdemeanor civil rights violation, although for the second offense, she largely took responsibility for Velazquez's actions. In January 2010, Gagne said, Mullins heard rumors that Renaud had had a romantic relationship with Prince. During PE class on Jan. 6, Mullins "vocally expressed frustration at this development." Prince was not present, but Mullins told one classmate that "someone ought to kick her ass." She told her gym teacher she was angry as well. These facts supported the charge of disrupting a school assembly, meaning gym class, Gagne said.
Between Jan. 8 and Jan. 10, the prosecutor continued, students heard Mullins make disparaging comments about Prince. He continued, "Velazquez was overheard telling Mullins she was willing to hit Prince or get someone else to do it," When school administrators talked to Velazquez, she said she was sticking up for her friend, "though she said Flannery hadn't told her or asked her to do anything on her behalf." Because of rumors of Mullins' anger, Gagne said, Prince skipped classes and went to the nurse's office. This interfered with her right to a public education, which constitutes a civil rights violation, according to the prosecutor.
Ashley Longe, also 18, admitted to harassing Prince as the basis for a misdemeanor offense. Gagne said that Longe yelled insulting remarks at Prince in the library of South Hadley High at lunchtime on the day of her death, Jan. 14, 2010. She also yelled at Prince in the hallway at dismissal time. When she saw Prince walking home alone, Longe threw an empty drink can at her from a car. The can did not hit Prince.
Phoebe's mother spoke in court today, as she did on Wednesday at the similar resolution of the cases of two other teens charged in connection with Prince's death. For Longe, alone among the six teens, she had kind words. "Yesterday, I met with Ashley Longe," O'Brien said. "Although I'm not dismissing how she treated Phoebe, she from the outset has been the only one to acknowledge her actions." O'Brien said she didn't want to discuss what she and Longe had talked about, but continued, "I am very satisfied that the accountability and genuine remorse we've been asking for since Jan. 14 has been offered to me by Ashley Longe."