Thursday 18 January 2018

Prosecutors line up dozens of witnesses in Phoebe bully trial

Jason O'Brien

PROSECUTORS in the US plan to call up to 50 witnesses in their case against three girls accused of bullying an Irish classmate so relentlessly that she took her own life.

Phoebe Prince (15) hanged herself at her home in South Hadley in Massachusetts in January of this year.

She had moved to the US a short time earlier from Co Clare.

Yesterday, Ashley Longe, Sharon Chanon Velazquez and Flannery Mullins, all from South Hadley, appeared in a juvenile court in Massachusetts.

The three are among a group of six teenagers charged earlier this year with bullying Ms Prince. Their cases are not expected to go to trial until January of next year.

Yesterday, the three girls' attorneys indicated that they will attempt to have the indictments thrown out because of insufficient evidence.

Ms Longe, Ms Velazquez and Ms Mullins were all 16 when they were charged as youthful offenders with violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury. Ms Mullins and Ms Velazquez are also charged with stalking. All three have pleaded not guilty.

An aunt of Phoebe Prince attended proceedings yesterday, but declined to comment.

According to prosecutors, Ms Mullins, Ms Velazquez and Ms Longe were angry over Ms Prince's brief relationship with Austin Renaud, an on-off boyfriend of Ms Mullins.

Mr Renaud and another teen, Sean Mulveyhill, face statutory rape charges for allegedly having sexual contact with Ms Prince. They have pleaded not guilty.

Mr Mulveyhill and his ex-girlfriend, Kayla Narey, also face the same civil rights charge levied against Ms Longe, Ms Velazquez and Ms Mullins.

Ms Longe is charged with yelling crude comments, such as "Irish whore" and "stupid slut", at Ms Prince in the school library a few hours before her suicide.

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

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


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

Earlier this week it was confirmed that a philanthropist has established a scholarship fund in Ms Prince's honour at the University of California at Berkeley. The $50,000 fund created by J Michael Mahoney will provide scholarships to graduate students at the university's School of Public Health.

A former newspaper reporter for the 'Atlanta Journal and Constitution', Mr Mahoney (81) has created 50 scholarships at various colleges and universities over the last 20 years

"The fact that here's this young Irish girl who just came to this country and then, boom, she went to high school and got tied up in all these things, and ended up taking her life," Mr Mahoney said. "I thought that was a God-awful story."

Irish Independent

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