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The Phoebe Prince Case Is Getting a New D.A.

Journalist Emily Bazelon, who has controversially claimed that the case against the accused teenagers is not as straightforward as originally thought, reports on yesterday’s hearing – and the implications of the appointment of a new DA.

A NEW DISTRICT attorney is coming to town in the Phoebe Prince cases. And he’ll probably be the prosecutor who decides how to resolve them.

On Tuesday, David Sullivan won election to the D.A.’s office in Hampshire County, the part of Western Massachusetts where criminal charges against five teenagers were filed in connection with Phoebe’s suicide. She killed herself last January in the town of South Hadley, and the five students, who went to South Hadley High with her, have been accused of causing her death by bullying her. (A sixth teen has been charged with statutory rape.)

Sullivan ran against Michael Cahillane, a protégé of the current D.A., Elizabeth Scheibel. Neither candidate talked during the race about the charges against the South Hadley High kids. But Sullivan criticized Scheibel’s office for a notorious spat with a juvenile court clerk-magistrate over a bathroom key (yes, it’s called pottygate). The attacks must have hit home, because Sullivan won in a 2-to-1 landslide. He is now the Democratic candidate for D.A., and since no Republican is running to replace Scheibel, he’s the one who will take over the case when she steps down in January.

Today in court, it became clear that this handoff will take place before at least two of the criminal cases go to trial. Kayla Narey, 17, and Sean Mulveyhill, 18, appeared with their lawyers and sat quietly while the prosecution and defense agreed to a March trial date for Sean and to a winter or spring trial for Kayla.

Both teenagers are facing multiple charges, including a Massachusetts offense called civil rights violation with bodily injury, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. Because Sean is also charged with statutory rape, his case is on a slower track in the court. So the real question today was whether Kayla might be tried while Scheibel is still in office…

Emily Bazelon is a senior editor at Slate.

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