Rumor has it that the South Hadley bullying case which began with the roar of a despearate political prosecutor is going out with a wimper from her replacement who was left to clean up her messes.
You may recasll that the late Phoebe Prince was the tragic figure about whom the public was in an outcry. Ms. Prince committed suicide and it was determined that the reason was that several of her classmates were bullying her both in person and through the internet. Like a not-quite- as- sympathetic Ponchus Pilot, the area’s most senior law enforcement official, the District Attorney, abandoned her oath to “do justice” and, instead, catered to political opportunity. She took the unusual step of indicting a bunch of kids who were allegedly Ms. Prince’s bullies. This was done, of course, before the full investigation into Ms. Prince was conducted. Said inveastgation revealed a very troubled young lady who had attempted suicide long before she even got to South Hadley.
Of course, to give the indictments the proper stench, she included in the group boys with whom Ms. Prince is alleged to have had sex. They were now charged with MA statutory rape and grouped in with the bullies.
Thankfully for the cause of Justice, the political strategy backfired and that District Attorney found herself out of her job.
Now, while the defendants will still have MA felony charges on their criminal records as they attempt to continue in school or find jobs, the Commonwealth is said to be offering plea bargains which will allow five out of six of the defendants to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges and having the more serious charges dropped. It is believed that the defendants will be allowed to plead guilty to Massachusetts criminal harasssment.
Previously the defendants faced a variety of charges, including including civil rights violations causing bodily injury, criminal harassment, stalking and disruption of a school assembly.
Even the stutory rape charge will apparently be dropped against one defendant.
One youth, however, remains charged with staturoy rape in the case and his attorney claims that he has not been discussing a possible deal with prosecutors.
All the current DA is willing to admit is that, “Next week there may be significant developments in one or more of the cases against the defendants charged with the alleged bullying of Phoebe Prince.”
Perhaps admitting more than that would be a mistake until public opinion reacts to this move.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Massachusetts’ Response To The Anti-Bullying Fervor
Experts seem to agree that this resolution is for the best. For example, Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox explained that “The district attorney wanted to make a strong statement and draw a line in the sand, which she did….But for so long, we ignored and tolerated bullying,” he said. “And to say at this point, ‘OK, we’re going to throw the book at you’ is the wrong approach. This is the better outcome.”
He was, of course, talking about the previous DA who had originally indicted the South Hadley students, Elizabeth Scheibel.
Both in the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog, as well as in various print, radio and television interviews, I have discussed this matter as well as the aftermath to the indictments. The second act of rushed political responses was the toothless, ambiguous and unbelievably broad statute that our legislature shoved through, after which they publically patted each other on the back for passing the “toughest” anti-bullying law in the country.
It was as laughable as it was tragic.
Now, the stage was set for confussion and a false sense of security leading to the ruination of Massachusetts students’ lives as well as, in other cases, real bullying victims being ignored in various schools.
And the schools followed suit…and the resulting confusion expected has been occuring ever since.
Mr. Fox is a bit generous when it comes to ex-DA Scheibel. Even under his view, however, how nice it must have been to be able to simply toss aside the responsibility of carefully “doing Justice” only to ruin more young lives in the name of “drawing a line in the sand”.
I am not so generous. I believe it was done for political reasons as are many things in the criminal justice system, with little regard for the destructions of the various lives of those it touches.
Those people could be you.
That is why you need to be leary and not simply accept the hype fed to you about the fairness of treatment by police officers , prosecutors and courts.
Be proactive. Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you or yours are suddenly within the sites of the Commonwealth for criminal charges. You never know what political wind is about to blow by.
If you are facing criminal charges and would like to consult me, please free to call me at 617-492-3000 to arrange a free initial consultation..
To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/04/27/plea_deals_reported_in_phoebe_prince_case/