NORTHAMPTON – It was supposed to be the nation’s first public glance at the Western Massachusetts teens who authorities say made Phoebe Prince’s life so unbearable that she could no longer live with herself.
Instead, it was the latest media circus in what may be a long line of awkwardly choreographed big tent shows before this story clears the front pages of newspapers and the nightly broadcasts.
With their lawyers standing in their stead at the Hampshire Superior Court today, not guilty pleas were entered on behalf of three of the teenagers accused in a litany of charges authorities say led to the suicide of the 15-year-old Irish immigrant.
Sean Mulveyhill, 17, of South Hadley, and Austin Renaud, 18, of Springfield, face charges of statutory rape, and Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey, 17, of South Hadley, face charges of violation of civil rights, criminal harassment, and disturbance of a school assembly
The latter charges stem from months of bullying that the Northwest District Attorney’s office say made Prince’s life unbearable. The state has no single law to charge someone with “bullying.”
Prince, a recent arrival from Ireland who was starting her first year at South Hadley High School, hanged herself Jan. 14. Prosecutors said she had endured relentless bullying by the three teenagers and at least six others at the school. Her death and the resulting investigation have garnered worldwide attention since the charges were announced last week.
The arraignment today would have offered the first real glimpses of several of those allegedly involved in the bullying at South Hadley High School, but the three did not attend, invoking a court rule that allowed them to waive their appearances.
The proceedings before Judge Judd Carhart took only a few minutes, but the hearing attracted dozens of reporters from local, regional, and national outlets. Some 11 television cameras huddled outside the courtroom with dozens of cameramen, boom microphone operators, and reporters jockeying for the best position.
But when the hearing ended after roughly the same amount of time as a television commercial break, people stormed out of the courthouse, and nearly all of them quietly slipped past the TV cameras and reporters without saying a word.
Terrence Dunphy, an attorney for Renaud, said he had not seen any evidence in the case yet and had little further comment.
Dunphy said he filed the motion to keep his client out of court.
“I thought it was appropriate,” he said.
Mulveyhill is represented by attorneys Frank Flannery and Vincent Bongiorni, and Narey is represented by Michael Jennings. All the attorneys in the case are based in Springfield. Flannery, Bongiorni, and Jennings did not return calls seeking comment.
Representing Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel in court yesterday were Assistant Distirct Attorney Michael Cahillane and Deputy First Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Dunphy Farris. Prosecutors declined to comment on the case.
Three other teens, Flannery Mullins, Sharon Chanon Velazquez, and Ashley Longe, all 16 and from South Hadley, are slated to be arraigned in Hampshire-Franklin Juvenile Court in Hadley on Thursday. They are being charged as youthful offenders.
Mulveyhill, Renaud, and Narey were released on personal recognizance and were ordered to stay away from the Prince family and to report to the State Police by Friday for formal booking and processing.
One teen did speak outside the courtroom. Eric Lacust, who said he was a student from Granby, did not say if he knew anyone involved in the case but said he was angry that the three teens skipped court.
“They should be denied bail,” Lacust said bitterly. “I think it’s wrong that no one showed up. It shows you can get away with murder, and it’s all right.”
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