NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Grand jury evidence doesn't support the charges against a Massachusetts teen accused of bullying a 15-year-old classmate who committed suicide, her attorney said Wednesday.
Michael Jennings said he will ask a judge to review the grand jury minutes and dismiss the charges against Kayla Narey, 17. An attorney for Sean Mulveyhill, another teen charged in the case, said he might file a similar motion.
Narey and Mulveyhill appeared briefly Wednesday in Hampshire Superior Court, where both are charged in connection with events before the January suicide of South Hadley High School freshman Phoebe Prince.
Four other teens also face charges, and all six have pleaded not guilty.
Prince, a 15-year-old who had recently emigrated from Ireland, hanged herself in January after what prosecutors call a relentless campaign of bullying by the other students.
Mulveyhill and another boy, 19-year-old Austin Renaud, are accused of having sexual contact with the underage girl. They're charged with statutory rape. Prosecutors have said Narey and the other three girls were angry about Prince's relationships with the boys.
Narey is charged with criminal harassment and civil rights violations resulting in bodily injury.
Narey never hurt Prince, never threatened physical harm nor did anything to cause Prince to hurt herself — all of which would be elements of proving the civil rights violation charge, her attorney said after Wednesday's brief court appearance.
"Actually, she never said anything to Phoebe," Jennings said.
Even if she admitted being present when someone else said something to Prince, "that doesn't necessarily translate to being a crime," he said. "There's no evidence that Kayla was anywhere around violence or threats of violence. The evidence doesn't exist."
Vincent Bongiorni, Mulveyhill's attorney, said the one-time football star is not in school while the case is being handled. Under a tentative timeline set Wednesday, Narey's case could go to trial in the first few months of 2011; Mulveyhill's, in mid-spring of 2011.
"He's a young man and this is overwhelming. If you were his age, it would be overwhelming, too," Bongiorni said.
Renaud is set to appear Oct. 4 in Hampshire Superior Court for a similar scheduling hearing.
Three other teens — Ashley Longe, Sharon Chanon Velazquez and Flannery Mullins — were 16 when they were arrested, and their cases are being handled in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court. They are scheduled to appear Sept. 23.
Earlier Wednesday, attorneys for Velazquez and Mullins met with prosecutors in juvenile court. Prosecutors agreed to hand over material about Prince's life and emotional state before she enrolled at South Hadley in return for the defendants' lawyers promise to keep the information confidential.
Attorneys for Velazquez and Mullins filed a motion last month requesting counseling and medical records, which they said showed Prince had emotional difficulties and "prior suicide attempts" before encountering those accused of bullying her.
Those comments prompted Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel to say that under the law, "the existence of a victim's disability does not legally excuse the defendant's criminal actions."
Franklin-Juvenile Court Judge Daniel Swords ordered the motions from Velazquez's and Mullins' attorneys impounded until defense attorneys file new motions that remove references to the sensitive materials.
Scheibel has said school administrators and teachers knew about the harassment but did little to stop it. She says their inaction was troublesome, but not criminal.
Prosecutors said the bullying went on for three months and that Phoebe's last day hours before her suicide were filled with near-constant bullying, including being hit with a beverage container as she walked home from school.
Renaud and Longe both have been charged with drunken driving in unrelated incidents in Holyoke and South Hadley, respectively, since the arrests in the alleged bullying. Both have pleaded not guilty in the DUI cases.