Incoming Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan has the discretion to drop the cases or settle for lesser charges against the six teenagers charged in the bullying of Irish girl Phoebe Prince when they go to trial in 2011.
The current DA, Elizabeth Scheibel, who charged six South Hadley teenagers earlier this year in connection with bullying ultimately leading to Prince’s suicide in January, is set to retire at the end of the year.
It now looks likely that all six of the accused will have their trials in 2011, thus making it unlikely that Scheibel will oversee them.
The decision to proceed with the charges, drop or reduce them will be left to David Sullivan, a Democrat who is contesting Scheibel’s seat unopposed, when he is expected to take over his new job in January.
Sullivan has not spoken about his views on the charges, which have been described by some as outrageous, and others as fair. He is not expected to comment until he takes up office.
Scheibel felt that Prince’s right to an education was taken away from her, and each of the students were in some way responsible for the bodily injury of her suicide.
In an effort to have the trials before the end of term, assistant DA Elizabeth Dunphy Farris -- her term also ends in at the end of the year -- sought last week to set December trial dates for Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Velazquez, who are all being charged as juvenile offenders. Dunphy Farris said she has between 40-50 witnesses ready to testify against the teenagers.
"A number of those witnesses are now in college so it makes sense for the Commonwealth to ask for a December date based upon the availability of a number of those witnesses,” said Dunphy Farris.
However, lawyers representing the girls argued that more preparation time would be required. Judge Daniel Swords urged them to file as quickly as possible.
"Let's move this case along," he said.
He also said he doesn't think a December trial date is possible and said a trial in 2011 was more likely.
Longe, Mullins and Velazquez have been charged with violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury. Mullins and Velazquez are also charged with stalking.
On September 15, Sean Mulveyhill, 18, and Kayla Narey, 17, also appeared before a judge.
Mulveyhill, a former captain of the South Hadley High School football team, had a sexual relationship with Prince last year. He is being charged with statutory rape, violation of civil rights (with bodily injury), criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly.
According to a report on Slate.com Prince took an overdose and was hospitalized for a week after the pair broke up last November.
Mulveyhill and Narey were each given separate trial dates for March and April 2011.
The sixth defendant, Austin Renaud, also charged with statutory rape, is scheduled to appear in court on October 4 after his lawyer asked for a postponement earlier this month. Renaud, Mulveyhill and Nary, will be tried in an adult court.
All six charged have pled not guilty.
If convicted, each of the students faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.