Jena 6 teen, Mychal Bell, pleads out


Mychal Bell (file)

Hat Tip: Associated Press, ABC News

A black teenager may get out of a juvenile facility in about eight months after a deal was struck Monday with prosecutors in the beating of a white classmate that sparked a major civil rights demonstration amid cries that his treatment was unduly harsh.

Mychal Bell, now 17, originally was charged as an adult with attempted murder in the beating of Justin Barker in December 2006. That charge was reduced before a jury convicted him in June of aggravated second-degree battery. In September, that verdict was thrown out by an appeals court that said Bell should be tried as a juvenile.

Under the deal, Bell pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery in return for an 18-month sentence with credit for the 10 months he already has served. Without a deal, Bell faced being placed in a juvenile facility until his 21st birthday.

Bell also must pay court costs plus $935 to the Barker family and he must testify truthfully in court if any other of his co-defendants in the Barker beating go to trial.

Bell is one of a group of teens who came to be known as the “Jena Six” as word spread of their arrests on attempted second-degree murder charges, which could have landed them in prison for decades.

“We were prepared to go forward with the trial, but you have to do what’s best for the client,” said Carol Powell Lexing, one of Bell’s attorneys. A juvenile court trial was to begin later this week.

As part of the deal, Bell will undergo counseling and begin to be reintegrated into the school system, his lawyers said.

LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said he was pleased with the deal “because Mr. Barker is beginning to get the restitution and compensation he’s due.”

Walters said he would try to work out plea deals with the other teens charged in Barker’s beating. He said his decision to work out a deal was not influenced by the intense media coverage and civil rights demonstrations.

Critics said prosecutors have treated blacks more harshly than whites in LaSalle Parish, pointing to an incident three months before the attack on Barker in which three white teens were accused of hanging nooses from a tree at the high school. The three were suspended from school but never criminally charged.

Walters has said there was no state crime to charge them with.

I am livid right now and essentially unable to comment, but I’ll have more to say later.

9 thoughts on “Jena 6 teen, Mychal Bell, pleads out

  1. I know how you feel. I heard it on my way home from work on the radio and nearly ran my car off the road.

    Bell’s attorney basically described the situation as being backed into a corner, because if Bell were to appeal the DA’s offer, he’d be right back in front of the judge that started this whole thing.

    Other parents of the remaining 6 were livid; both because of the acceptance of the deal, and because it has not yet been offered to them.

    I’d sure like to know what kinds of counseling they’re offering Bell.

  2. Blair

    Plea bargaining is normal in criminal cases. Only a small percent of criminal cases actually go to trial. Reduced sentences are also routine. As part of his plea bargaining, Bell agreed to testify against the other Jena Six defendants. The others will almost certainly seek and receive plea bargains similar to Bell’s. Those who have no prior convictions may receive probation rather than jail time.

    The court ordered Bell and his family to pay restitution to Justin Barker and his family. The other defendants, if they accept similar plea bargains, will also likely be required to pay restitution. This morning, the Barkers filed a civil lawsuit against the LaSalle Parish School Board, the parents of the Jena Six and the adult members of the Jena Six. The school board will probably pay an out-of-court settlement to avoid a trial. The Barker’s attorney will probably seek some of the money, said to be more than $500,000, that has been donated to the Jena Six families since the Jena Six incident made headlines. Bell’s guilty plea will be used against him in the civil lawsuit. If the other defendants plead guilty or are convicted, their guilty pleas or covictions will also be used against them in the civil trial.

    In a 2005 case similar to the Jena Six beating, five white South Carolina teenagers who beat up a black teenager were charged and convicted of “second-degree lynching and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.” (There was no actual lynching involved. Second-degree lynching is defined by South Carolina law as any act of violence on another person by a mob when death does not occur. A mob is considered two or more people whose purpose and intent is committing an act of violence on another person.) Like the Jena Six, the white teenagers kicked the victim, 16-year-old Isaiah Clyburn, as he lay on the ground. The attack left the black youth “on the roadside bruised and bloodied from the attack.”

    The white teenagers received the following sentences: One, who prosecutors said was the person most responsible for the attack, was sentenced to 18 years suspended to six years and 400 hours of public service. Two were sentenced to 15 years suspended to three years and 300 hours of public service. And one was sentenced to 15 years suspended to 30 months and 300 hours of community service. A sixth co-defendant, Amy Woody, 17, was also charged with 2nd-degree lynching even though she did not take part in the beating. She escaped jail time by turning state’s evidence.

  3. Cliff

    One day I was about to get a ticket from the local parking enforcement. In L.A., they are damn near about 90% sistahs. I ran outside to move my car while one was about to step out and start writing, I said “I can move my car right now”. She felt merciful, smiled and spared me a ticket. The other sistah in the car said

    “What do you say”!?

    I said “What?” She said WHAT-DO-YOU-SAY!? I said “What”?
    She said “What do you say, when someone gives you a favor!? I said “Thank you, sistah, for not giving me a ticket.”
    The LaSalle Parish District Attorney is probably thinking the same way when he allowed Michael Bell this opportunity for a plea deal.

    D.A. Reed Walters, will probably turn towards the black community and say “What do you say”!? “What do you say to me, now that I let your brother, out of prison!?

    The ignorant will say “Thank you for not giving him any more time, and for giving him freedom”.

    The wise who know the pattern of the satanic, will be prepared for the schemes that proceed almost simultaneously with our thoughts of victory. The wicked masters who control the judicial system, have crafted an art of simultaneous desecration of any aforethought success of a supposed defeat of their injustice. As soon as they let him out of prison during the “Jena 6” protest, they put right him back in. It was almost like they thought “Dangle him in front of the crowd, and settle them down. Then when elation sets in, snatch him from of among them, and then put him back in our hands”. “Kill any thoughts of victory in their heads”.

    “If the other defendants plead guilty or are convicted, their guilty pleas or convictions will also be used against them in the civil trial.”

    It looks like Blair knows their pattern, and is already watching for the “Hook”.

  4. My question is, do you think that he will lie, exaggerate the situation, possibly under the coercion of the DA? Do you think he can when there’s this much media attention? If he tells the truth, will there really have been a miscarriage of justice if the others get convicted?

    I am curious to see how it turns out.

  5. virgo

    Justice is still blind. Micheal Bell plead out good but what kind of restitution is the students that witnessed the noose going to get. Exactly. Maybe this will make people get up and express thier voice and vote

  6. leaveittothelaw

    Very few students witnessed the nooses as they were removed by the school officials who then went through established procedures to punish the noose hangers. Yeah, Yeah, I know they did not send them to jail but they did banish them to the alternative school and they made them and their parents attend sensitivity training (whatever that is). But hey, it was their first offence. Mychal Bell had four juvenile convictions of battery or property distruction before they sent him to jail. How many get out of jail free cards was he supposed to get?

    D. A. Walters was really guilty of being too soft on Mychal Bell but no one wants to give him credit for that. I was sure that Mychal Bell would have been involved in the burning of the school and I saw in the news yesterday that I was wrong.

Comments are closed.