Oct 26, 2010 5:26 PM by Letitia Walker
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) - A Massachusetts judge on Tuesday scheduled a March trial for a teenager accused of having sexual contact with a younger classmate, who hanged herself after what prosecutors call relentless bullying from the teen's ex-girlfriend and four other students.
Austin Renaud, 18, is charged with the statutory rape of Phoebe
Prince, a South Hadley High School freshman who was 15 when she
committed suicide in January. Renaud has pleaded not guilty.
Prince's death, one of several high-profile suicides related to
bullying, sparked national discussions about the need to intervene
against bullying, protect students and punish their alleged
Renaud is not charged with bullying Prince. His attorney said
Renaud considered Prince a friend, and that he tried in vain to
help as the bullying escalated before her suicide.
He cut off contact with his ex-girlfriend and the other students
long ago, attorney Terrence Dunphy said.
"As you can see, he was not one of the ones involved with the
stalking, the bullying, the abuse or anything else," Dunphy said,
describing Renaud as a quiet and respectful teen.
Renaud did not comment at Tuesday's hearing in Hampshire
Superior Court. Prince's aunt also attended and left afterward
Prosecutors charged all six teens after an investigation into
Prince's suicide, which they say occurred after a particularly
brutal day of bullying that followed months of verbal abuse and
Five South Hadley students are charged with civil rights
violations resulting in bodily injury. They are: Flannery Mullins,
Sharon Velazquez and Ashley Longe, who were all 16; and Kayla Narey
and her on-and-off boyfriend, Sean Mulveyhill, who were both 17.
Prosecutors say the girls were angry about Prince's
relationships with Mulveyhill and Renaud. Renaud had dated Mullins
before meeting Prince, a recent immigrant from Ireland.
Prosecutors say Prince was cornered in school, pelted with a
beverage can, berated on Facebook and repeatedly called an "Irish
whore" and "Irish slut."
On the day of her death, prosecutors say, one of the defendants
used a particularly crude obscenity to list Prince's name on a
library sign-in sheet, and others followed her home to taunt her as
Mullins and Velazquez also are charged with stalking, and
Mulveyhill is also charged with statutory rape. They all have
pleaded not guilty.
Renaud is not charged with anything related to stalking or
harassing Prince, though his arrest was announced at the same time.
Prosecutors have not disclosed what kind of evidence they plan to
present at trial to support the statutory rape charge against him.
Dunphy said he couldn't elaborate on the details of the case
because of protective orders that prohibit attorneys from
discussing confidential information in documents they receive
If convicted of statutory rape, Renaud could face up to life in
prison. He has been suspended indefinitely from South Hadley High,
as were the other five students charged.
"It's a scary thing for a kid his age to be indicted in this
type of crime," Dunphy said. "He's out of school and unable to
complete his education at this point. He needs to get this resolved
before he can get on with the rest of his life."