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updated 5/4/2011 2:16:59 PM ET 2011-05-04T18:16:59

Two teens accused of harassing a 15-year-old Irish-born classmate who later hanged herself were sentenced Wednesday to a year of probation, the first of five anticipated plea deals in a case that drew worldwide attention to school bullying.

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Phoebe Prince's crying mother approved the deals finalized in Hampshire Superior Court, where Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey, both 18, were sentenced for their roles in the bullying that preceded Phoebe's suicide in January 2010.

Three other former South Hadley High School students are expected to accept similar plea arrangements Thursday in a nearby juvenile courthouse, about 100 miles west of Boston.

Prosecutors said Phoebe's family agreed to the plea deals to end the stress of the drawn-out court proceedings and, more importantly, because they required the teens to admit that their threats, crude insults and slurs about Phoebe's Irish ethnicity were criminal acts.

Prosecutors have said the bullying stemmed from four girls' anger about Phoebe's relationships with Mulveyhill, who was captain of the school's football team, and another popular boy after she transferred to South Hadley from Ireland, and that Mulveyhill goaded some of the girls to harangue Phoebe after he dumped her.

"Today's proceedings signify that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated in our schools and when it rises to the level of criminal conduct, as it did in these two cases, those responsible will be prosecuted," Northwestern First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said after Wednesday's sentencings.

Mulveyhill, Narey and four other South Hadley teens originally were charged with violating Phoebe's civil rights and other offenses, and Mulveyhill was charged with statutory rape for allegedly having sexual contact with the underage girl.

On Wednesday, Mulveyhill pleaded guilty under the plea arrangement to a single count of misdemeanor criminal harassment and the other charges were dropped, including the statutory rape charge.

Narey's plea deal was slightly different: she acknowledged the state would likely win a conviction at trial on a criminal harassment charge, so prosecution was placed on hold without a formal guilty plea and the civil rights charge against her was dropped. That leaves her with a clean record if she successfully completes probation.

She apologized through tears Wednesday to Phoebe's family, her own and her hometown, saying she was so jealous about Prince's brief relationship with Mulveyhill — her on and off boyfriend — that she temporarily put aside the values her family had instilled in her.

Her attorney said Narey had only a few interactions with the girl, and was not part of the more extensive and drawn-out bullying that others are accused of orchestrating. She also posted disparaging comments about Phoebe on her Facebook page.

Mulveyhill did not address the court during his sentencing, but his attorney, Vincent Bongiorni, said he believes the plea arrangement is "a fair and equitable one, given the entirety of the circumstances."

Prosecutors' comments Wednesday painted Mulveyhill as someone who deceived both girls about his involvement with the other, then egged on a third girl to frighten Phoebe and threaten to beat her up.

Phoebe hanged herself that day after school, telling a friend in final text messages, "I think Sean condoning this is one of the final nails in my coffin. I can't take much more — it would be easier if he or any one of them handed me a noose."

Phoebe's death became an often-cited case in national debates over preventing and prosecuting bullying in American schools and universities. Her mother, Anne O'Brien, said Mulveyhill and Narey had many opportunities to stop the other girls' bullying but, instead, added fuel to the fire by participating or condoning it.

O'Brien shared memories of visiting Paris with her daughter, reading the girl's poetry, chatting at the kitchen table and discussing Phoebe's dreams for her future, all of which were lost on the day the teen's younger sister found her body.

Story: 5 charged in Mass. bullying case strike deals

"It is nearly impossible to measure the impact of Phoebe's death upon our lives ... There is a dead weight that now sits permanently in my chest," her mother, Anne O'Brien, said in court.

Phoebe had attempted suicide earlier in the school year after the breakup with Mulveyhill, and information that police found on her computer indicated she was contemplating it again about a month before she hanged herself, Narey's attorney, Michael Jennings, said Wednesday in court before prosecutors objected and the judge curbed his comments.

Mulveyhill and Narey must both serve a year of probation under terms of Wednesday's plea arrangements and perform 100 hours of community service to help at-risk youth. They also cannot profit from telling their stories during their probation period, and can only be in contact with the Prince family at their approval.

The three younger teens — Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Velazquez — have court dates Thursday in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court.

A sixth teen, 19-year-old Austin Renaud, is not charged in connection with the bullying, but faces a single statutory rape charge for allegedly having sexual contact with Prince. He has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney says they do not have a plea agreement in place with prosecutors.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Phoebe Prince’s dad on bullying summit

  1. Closed captioning of: Phoebe Prince’s dad on bullying summit

    >>> the president and first lady have put the issue of bullying front and center by hosting a conference at the white house today. students, parents and, teachers and administrators are taking part in discussions in the hope of developing effective, new policies to prevent bullying in and out of our nation's schools. president obama opened the conference with remarks the way bullying has changed and how it can lead to tragic consequences.

    >> today bullying done even end at the school bell . it can follow our children from the hallways to their cell phones to their computer screens. in recent months a series of tragedy as has drawn attention to how devastating bullying can be. we have been heartbroken by the stories of young people who endured harassment and ridiculed day after day at school and who ultimately took their own lives.

    >> one of the children, the president was referring to, is phoebe prince who was a 15-year-old freshman at south hadley high school in massachusetts when she hanged herself last year after months relentless bullying. six students have been charged in the case and are awaiting trial. the suicide led massachusetts to pass a law inducing an anti-bullying curriculum into the state's public schools . but that hasn't stopped the continued vilification of phoebe online and some say even at her school. phoebe was a young girl from ireland and earlier today her father spoke about her death publicly for the first time. in an exclusive interview he told me the family was never even informed about today's event at the white house until i called last night. and you heard absolutely nothing?

    >> absolutely nothing. we did not know this event was taking place at all.

    >> what was your reaction to that?

    >> initially, surprise. a little bit of shock that we felt that there should at least be a duty to inform us what was going to happen because of the inevitable effect on this household of another big publicity firestorm. then this morning we heard about the guest list for it and this caused even deeper distress to the extent that i cannot talk to you now because she has gone down to the place by the sea where phoebe 's family and friends scattered part of her ashes.

    >> one of the individuals who is going to be talking about this issue is somebody who you reserve some criticism for. i know you don't want to mention her name, but what was your reaction when you heard she was taking part?

    >> basically, shock and disgust. the individual who, as i say, until i have conclusive proof, i will not name publicly, is a person who we believe, and have already some evidence towards, has been deliberately vilifying phoebe , blaming the victim, making up, frankly, disgusting and offensive untruths about her.

    >> so this individual, who is ostensibly blaming to be opposed to bullying, you understand has actually been involved in posting some of the most offensive things about your own late daughter?

    >> that is our firm belief. that is the cause of a lot of the distress about the event at the white house today.

    >> do you accept that the president by virtual of holding this event is at least trying to put the issue of bullying front and center, both politically but also in terms of the national conversation ?

    >> i think the president is entirely right. as i said before, i have the greatest admiration for president obama . i think he is doing the right thing. i think he has been very ill advised in this particular case, particularly in terms of the guest list. but i wholly support his involvement in the campaign to stop this sort of behavior that led to the death of my daughter, carrying on in schools in america. he has my 100% support.

    >> often in these circumstances, people concentrate on the victim of the bullying without thinking beyond that in the immediate family . i wonder if you could describe for us how difficult the last year has been.

    >> yes, to a certain extent. some things, you simply cannot describe and cannot talk about. things like uncontrolled tears, the things that remind you, little things like going into a supermarket, seeing grapes, phoebe 's favorite food, reaching out for them and then realizing. it keeps coming back and it keeps hitting you and keeps giving you immense distress. i can only imagine, how bad this is for me, how much worse it is for ann, thinking of the child she carried for nine months, breast-fed, brought up, and helped and that goes on every time there's another phone call or someone else mentioned it, it brings it all back. it hasn't been allowed to go away. we cannot let my little girl lie in her gave in peace because we are continually being pestered by the fact that she's a poster child for a campaign which is not about her. it is about how people behave in schools, how schools administer it and about the law. couldn't they leave our daughter alone?

    >> i know that you, yourself, have done a great deal of thinking around the issue of bul bullying. when i first talks to you some months ago you said to me bullying as a term was too weak. what does bullying really constitute, in your mind?

    >> well, i like to use the french word for bullying which is persecution. it involves a campaign over a periods of time to destroy someone, to destroy their self-respect, to destroy their happiness.

    >> was this persecution in person or was it online? did people use other mechanisms for abuse, because as you know, one of the biggest forums for bullying has become areas like facebook and other websites.

    >> it is a form for bullying, yes. in this particular case, it played a minor, if not negligible role. it was face-to-face, person-to-person, and that is far worse. you can turn off the computer but you cannot turn off the person who is shouting at you and threatening you.

    >> when i look at photographs of her i can see anything that would invoke anybody to do anything unkind to her. she's a beautiful child .

    >> i fine it incomprehensible 350e people could have done these things to that child. only they can answer to that.

    >> as you know, we're waiting for a trial that's due to take place in relation to phoebe 's death. what are your hopes for those proceedings?

    >> all along, in any -- there have been few statements i have made what i have looked for is admission of what happened and contrition, and for them to genuinely be sorry for what they did and recognize that it was -- how wrong it was. now this is not jumping the gun and saying what any verdict should be, but i have looked for people to be sorry for the fact that i have lost my daughter.

    >> i can well understand. i'm the father of three children myself, two daughters, and it's unimaginable what has happened.

    >> well, unimaginable is actually the right word. you wake up sometimes in the night believing it was all a nightmare and nen you realize it's waking up brings you into the nightmare.

    >> one of the things that people talk in focusing on the bullying issue is that it done just impact on the person who is the victim. you, as you've already mentioned, have a younger child. what are your concerns for her?

    >> that she should grow up into a strong, beautiful, clever, talented and above all happy individual, and that is a total focus of both ann and myself at the moment. we could do without distractions. there is one other point which i think should be made, and made very strongly, that bullying does not just take place and end in the school yard. we had letters from all over america and europe, from people who had been bullied, 20, 30, 40 year ago about how it destroy their self-confidence, by destroying their own self-image. it goes on. it lasts with people. it's traumatic experience for a child which can affect their whole lives and people should be aware of this. it doesn't end at the school. it happens there.

    >> jeremy, i want to thank you very, very much for joining us today. i know that this is extremely difficult for you, but i hope that we have remembers phoebe in a dignified manner and that also you'll find some comfort in the weeks and months ahead.

    >> well, i just hope that anything i have said can help protect other children from what happened to my phoebe .

    >> thank you, jeremy.

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