Teenager Phoebe Prince hung herself after months of bullying on January 14 last year in Massachusetts. She was 15 at the time.
Prince's mother, Anne O'Brien, was present in the courtroom on Wednesday when two of her daughter's former bullies were sentenced.
Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey, both 18, pled guilty to harassment charges. The court sentenced them each to a one-year probation, as well as 100 hours of community service.
The bullying started in the fall of 2009. Mulveyhill and Narey were in a relationship before Prince, an Irish immigrant, moved into the area, reports The Republican. Mulveyhill began a relationship with Prince, but when Prince found out he was dating Narey, she broke off the relationship and even apologized to Narey.
Rumors circulated around Christmas 2009 that Prince was dating another student, Austin Renaud, who already had a girlfriend. Narey began to bully Prince, and encouraged other students to do the same.
Prince hung herself with a scarf in her home on January 14, 2009. The same day, she had been called names, taunted, and had a soda can thrown at her while she was walking home from school, according to The Republican.
"There is a dead weight that now sits permanently in my chest. It is an unbearable pain and it will stay with me until my own death. I would not wish this kind of pain on any parent," O'Brien told the court, reports Fox News.
Under Massachusetts law, bullies can be found guilty of criminal harassment if they are found to have "maliciously" engaged in a "knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person." The harassment by Mulveyhill and Narey must have been reasonable to cause a Prince to suffer a great deal of emotional distress.
The two teenage defendants had originally faced more serious felony charges, including a violation of Prince's civil rights and causing bodily injury. These charges would have meant that they contributed to Prince's death.
Defense motions revealed Prince's history of depression and prior suicide attempts. This evidence would have cut against the prosecution's felony charges, resulting in the lighter plea charges.
Anne O'Brien, Phoebe Prince's mother, approved of the settlements, according to The New York Times. As a mother still reeling from the loss of her daughter, she is likely relieved to hear the defendants' admission of guilt, and for the ability to skip a painfully emotional trial.
- Phoebe Prince's Mother Speaks Out Against Daughter's Bully (ABC News)
- Harassment (FindLaw)
- Bullying (FindLaw)
- Cyberbullying Suicide: How Do You Protect Your Kids? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)