updated 5/5/2011 5:06:11 PM ET 2011-05-05T21:06:11

Three teenagers admitted Thursday that they participated in the bullying of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl who later committed suicide, with one of the girl's lawyers complaining that they had been unfairly demonized as "mean girls."

Sharon Chanon Velazquez, 17, and two 18-year-olds, Flannery Mullins and Ashley Longe, were sentenced to less than a year of probation after they admitted to sufficient facts to misdemeanor charges in the bullying of Phoebe Prince, a freshman at South Hadley High School who hanged herself in January 2010.

Prosecutors said Prince, who had recently emigrated from Ireland, was hounded by five teens after she briefly dated two boys. Her death drew international attention and was among several high-profile teen suicides that prompted new laws aimed at cracking down on bullying in schools.

By admitting to sufficient facts, they acknowledged that prosecutors could win a conviction if the case went to trial. The charges against the girls were continued without a finding and will be dismissed if they successfully complete their probation.

Under a plea deal approved by Prince's family, prosecutors agreed to dismiss more serious charges against them.

Two other teens finalized similar deals with prosecutors in court Wednesday.

Charges against a sixth teen were being dropped at the request of Prince's family, NBC News reported.

Attorneys for Velazquez and Mullins offered condolences to Prince's family but said they believed the girls had been treated overly harshly by both prosecutors and the news media.

Video: Teen bullies apologize in Phoebe Prince case (on this page)

Alfred Chamberland, a lawyer for Mullins, said it was not a "relentless" three-month bullying campaign, as retired District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel alleged when the teens were charged last year.

Mullins did not even know who Prince was until she returned to school after winter vacation in January 2010 and heard that Prince had been dating her boyfriend, Austin Renaud, Chamberland said.

In a statement he read to reporters, Chamberland said prosecutors had "overcharged" the girls and the media had unfairly portrayed them as "mean girls and bullies."

"She never spoke directly with Miss Phoebe Prince," he said.

In court, Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said that after hearing rumors at school that Prince had had "some sort of romantic relationship" with her boyfriend, she told at least one classmate that "someone ought to kick her ass," referring to Prince.

Then, during gym class, several students heard her and others making "disparaging and vulgar" comments about Prince, Gagne said.

He said Velazquez, Mullins' friend, then approached Prince in a "loud and threatening manner" and called her disparaging names. Velazquez was also overheard telling Mullins that she was willing to hit Prince or get someone else to do it, Gagne said.

"Word quickly spread around the school that Mullins was angry at Prince and that Mullins planned on fighting her," Gagne said.

Gagne said Prince became fearful, skipped class and went to the school nurse several times.

"She was frightened to go to class and was unable to focus on her studies," Gagne said.

Mullins admitted to sufficient facts to a misdemeanor civil rights violation, which was continued without a finding until she turns 19 in January 2012, and to a charge of disturbing a school assembly, which was continued without a finding for three months.

Prince's mother, Anne O'Brien, delivered an emotional victim impact statement, recalling her daughter's "kind heart" and the compassion she showed to others.

O'Brien said her daughter loved school up until the time the bullying began.

"Yet, with Flannery Mullins' numerous threats to beat her up, school for Phoebe became intolerable," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said that after her daughter's concerns were brought to Mullins' attention, Mullins boasted that "I'm just gonna mess with her head."

Mullins showed no obvious emotion as Prince's mother spoke and did not offer an apology in court.

Velazquez cried softly as she listened to Prince's mother describe her daughter and the pain she felt from the bullying.

Her lawyer, Colin Keefe, called the plea agreement "an appropriate disposition" and said Velazquez has been subjected to an "endless, endless public reprimand."

"My client has very much endured a very significant punishment for the last year," he said.

The third girl, Ashley Longe, cried softly as a prosecutor described how she yelled disparaging remarks at Prince in the school library just hours before she committed suicide and threw a beverage can at her as Prince walked home from school that day.

Longe admitted to sufficient facts to a charge of criminal harassment. The charge will be dismissed if she successfully completes nearly a year of probation.

Longe and Mullins were ordered to complete 100 hours of community service to help at-risk or underprivileged youth. Velazquez was ordered to complete 50 hours and asked by Prince's family to voluntarily complete an additional 50 hours.

Prince's mother said Longe expressed "genuine remorse" when the two met Wednesday at Longe's request.

"Although I am not dismissing how she treated Phoebe, she, from the outset, has been the only one to acknowledge her actions," O'Brien said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Teen bullies apologize in Phoebe Prince case

  1. Closed captioning of: Teen bullies apologize in Phoebe Prince case

    >>> but we begin this half hour with new details from the phoebe prince case. she's the young girl who took her own life after bullies bully bullied her at school. jeff is in hadley, massachusetts.

    >> reporter: this case set the tone. if you're a bully, you can be charged with real crimes by police and prosecutors. the kids, six of them in hadley, massachusetts, were charged with serio serious, serious charges. most are striking plea deals to avoid jail time altogether. we never heard from them themselves. they've never spoken about what happened. they never apologized until now. in court wednesday, one of the so-called mean girls broke down. she now admits she bullied 15-year-old phoebe prince at school and online.

    >> i am sorry, phoebe . i'm sorry for ton kind things i said to others about you. i'm sorry about the unkind posting on my facebook page. but mostly i am sorry for january 14th of 2010 in the library and in the hallway when i laughed one someone said humiliating things at you. i'm sorry for the tramgy and the prince family who i know has been suffering since that awful day.

    >> but phoebe prince would never live to hear that apology. for this young girl the torment was too much. according to the court papers they called her a whore, threatening to punch her in the face. while walking home from school they said, why don't you just kill yourself and she did. she hanged herself at home. her mother has been silent ever since but opened up for the first time wednesday, facing phoebe 's alleged bullies in court.

    >> as i said my final good-bye to phoebe at the crematorium, i held her for the very last time. my little girl once so full of life was not so cold. i asked her what am i going to do. people trusted sean mulvespill, guide her through the maze of the school. i can only imagine the pain that she felt in his unrelenting desire to harass and humiliate her.

    >> reporter: wednesday both reached deals with prosecutors.

    >> guilty.

    >> thank you, sir.

    >> reporter: misdemeanor, criminal harassment. probation and one year of community service . sources close to the case tell nbc news three others will strike the same deal later today.

    >> is phoebe 's family satisfied with this, the kids get nothing jail time?

    >> yeah. i don't think anybody wanted to see the kids go to jail.

    >> reporter: phoebe 's mom signed off to akroid going to trial but you can hear the hurt in every word.

    >> phoebe ended her pain by the harass management.

    >> reporter: heart-wrenching to be sitting there in the courtroom. there really wasn't a dry eye in the entire house. it's been nearly a year. the criminal case will come to an end. as we mentioned the five or six kids have struck plea deals. this boy is charged with statutory rape . he denies that charge. he apparently isn't wheeling and dealing with prosecutors and plans on fighting the charge, meredith. he eelg be in court over the summer.

    >> thank you very much. emily is a writer and senior editor for "slate" magazine. good morning. as jeff pointed out all six of these teens, two of them have pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and criminal misdemeanor. we'll probably see the same lenient sentence. are you surprised by the outcome here?

    >> it's hard to square the outcome with the very serious felony charges that were filed but i'm not surprised to the degree that phoebe 's family supported the deal and also i think a sense of proportional punishment took over in the d.a.'s office.

    >> why are you not surprised her family, specifically her mom, is all right with this because obviously she's heartbroken and angry.

    >> absolutely. but her father wanted them to acknowledge their wrong and apologize. and we saw i think kayla do that in a moving and brave way yesterday.

    >> do you believe in your report that justice has been done here? i ask you that because the last time you were on you had written a piece that had suggested quite clearly that you felt maybe these kids should not be charged with any crimes.

    >> i do think there's a question about using the criminal justice system in situations like this, but i also think that listening to the facts recounted yesterday that a misdemeanor harassment and seeing them acknowledge what they had done seemed like it was bringing some relief to phoebe 's family, and perhaps to them as well in the sense that these cases are over. these very serious charges have been hanging over the heads of these kids for a year and that is punishment itself.

    >> and the kind of ha asment they subjected phoebe to, they have been received, death threats, messaging over the internet, the reaction if the people you saw there when these sentences were handed down.

    >> you know, it was just a very sobering moment and occasion, and i think that there was a way in which phoebe 's mother was able to speak. and i hope that gave her some comfort. she really expressed herself clearly as did kayla. so there was a senn of kind of a public accounting .

    >> so you didn't get a sense that because there was such outrage that that continues to be the case? have you seen those sentences come down?

    >> i think that's right. i think there'll be pockets of upset online, but i think a lot of people, particularly in south hadley , feel relief that this case is coming to an end.

    >> and there is another student that's involved in this, austin . he was charged with statutory rape as was sean . do you anticipate the charge will also be dropped for austin ?

    >> i do think that would be a fair outcome given the outcome of sean 's statutory rape charge. austin 's is different in the case that there isn't necessarily a lesser case for him to plead to. we're talking about an 18-year-old who allegedly had sex with a 15-year-old and who denies it. you know, those are the facts at issue.

    >> and finally do you think there is a message here that kids will receive loud and clear about bullying, specifically during this period where social media is so prevalent, that it can be criminalized?

    >> it can be and it's risky. kids write all kinds of really mean things on facebook and most of the team people don't pay attention, but sometimes it can really come back to bite you because there's a permanent record of the krult you are part of.

    >> sad all the way around.

    >> really sad.

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