Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

MA Bullying Victim’s Dad Suggests Leniency In Sentencing Of Students

Here is something a Boston Criminal Lawyer does not see every day. The father of a tragically deceased daughter, who’s death the Commonwealth is looking use as a tool of political expediency, is showing the compassion.

You remember the word “compassion”, don’t you? It is the word I used when discussing the tragedy and the problem of bullying in the first place.

Yes, I am referring to the father of the late Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide earlier this year. The local prosecutor decided to blame the death on local bullies and take the extra step of indicting the kids. Now, with Ms. Prince dead, other potential reasons for the suicide coming to light, her father, unlike the “cool heads” of law enforcement, is said to be seeking “justice, not vengeance”.

Jeremy Prince, the father, in an interview with the online publication slate.com, said he would be willing to ask a judge for leniency if his daughter’s alleged tormentors expressed their remorse in open court.

He further said that while it is up to the district attorney to determine prosecution, it would be wrong for the prosecutor to push for harsh sentences merely for the purpose of making an example of the kids.

Mr. Prince stated that he thinks DA Scheibel is setting an example that would not be necessary if the adults at South Hadley High School who were alerted to Phoebe’s vulnerability had intervened before it got to the point that Phoebe felt the only way out was to take her own life. He does not, however, accept the argument that the children are being punished for the sins of the adults.

When it comes to the way Ms. Prince was hounded and not protected, there’s plenty of sin to go around according to Mr. Pince.

Mr. Prince believes there are adults at South Hadley High who failed his daughter miserably, and by extension the young people charged with bullying her. He said Phoebe did not share with him in Ireland or with her mother in South Hadley just how bad it was those final days.

“Phoebe’s perception, and I think it was the correct one, is that if she had told us, we would have been down at the school ranting and raving, but that the school would not do anything about it and it would actually get worse,” he said.

Anne O’Brien had, on more than one occasion, asked school officials to help Phoebe. Phoebe was new to the country, new to the school, and dating older boys had created all sorts of problems, earning her the enmity of various cliques.

“The whole culture was wrong at that school campus. The school turned a blind eye for administrative reasons,” Mr. Prince said. “They closed ranks. The adults at the high school responded to this like administrators, not educators. Administrators minimize everything, they want as little hassle as possible. An educator would be setting an example.

“I hate the word bullying,” he said. “What they did to Phoebe was not bullying. Bullying is this word with benign, Victorian overtones. Do you know what the French call bullying? Persecution. It’s spelled the same, and it means the same. It’s easily defined as long-term harassment meant to injure or distress someone. That’s what was done to Phoebe.”

Persecution demands prosecution, Jeremy Prince believes, but justice does not demand vengeance.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

“So, Sam, is that it? Does he get the final say? After all, at least according to the Commonwealth, he and his wife are the living victims“.

The victim’s, or complainant’s, desires in a criminal case are taken into account in such a matter, but they are not controlling. In fact, I have handled several cases wherein the complainant wants to drop the charges but the prosecution goes on.

In a criminal matter, it is not really the complainant who is the plaintiff. The Commonwealth is the plaintiff and so it is it’s case. The complainant is merely the main witness.

This, of course, does not mean that the complainant’s desires are not taken into account. In most cases, they are. However, that varies, usually depending on whether said desires are the same desires as the prosecution.

While deciding what charges will be brought forth is decided by the prosecution and the question of guilt or innocence is determined (at a jury trial) by the jury, the sentencing is the province of the judge. Even if there is no trial, the final say in sentencing goes to the judge. However, the prosecutor, defense attorney, complainant and defendant have a right to be heard before the court imposes sentence.

In this case, whether there be trials or plea bargains, one can only guess what level of political fervor will fill the DA’s mind. Perhaps she will consider the inconvenient other facts which get in the way of laying all blame for Ms. Prince’s death at the defendants’ feet. Perhaps she will call any such facts shameful examples of blaming the victim.

After all, as discussed here regularly, people are not generally criticized for being “tough on crime”. Compassion for the alleged criminal, however, is something else.

Even for politicians.

Especially for politicians.

If you find yourself or a loved one in such a situation, wherein the future is in the hands of The Prosecutor, do not take it lightly.

Guilty or innocent or in between…be proactive in protecting yourself. Retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you would like to explore that attorney being me, please feel free to give me a call at 617-492-3000 .

To view the original story upon which today’s blog was based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/07/30/father_in_mass_bullying_case_seeks_apology?mode=PF and http://news.google.com/news/search?aq=f&pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&q=Phoebe+Prince

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