'Jena 6' Teen Cops a Plea to Get Out of Jail Earlier

Published February 11, 2008

Posted Dec. 4, 2007 – Mychal Bell, the last of the “Jena 6” teens still in jail, pleaded guilty to a single count of juvenile battery, for which he will serve an additional eight months to go with the 10 months he has already served.

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While it’s not the immediate freedom Bell and his family had hoped for, it could have been much worse. If he had gone to trial and been convicted for battery and conspiracy, the 17-year-old could have remained incarcerated until his 21st birthday.

"This was a way to put a close to an event at a time when everyone had reasons to want it settled," said Louis Scott, one of Bell's lawyers, told The Associated Press.

He and five other African-American teens were initially charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder for a fight with Justin Barker, a classmate at Jena High School.  In fact, it was the seemingly harsh prosecution by the LaSalle Parish prosecutor that put the tiny town of Jena, La., on the national radar screen.

Critics argued that a schoolyard fight did not warrant charges that could have landed the teens in prison for more than 20 years. They also complained that the White students who hung a noose on a tree at the school – an incident that is blamed for triggering the fight with Barker – should have been charged with perpetrating a hate crime. In a massive rally on Sept. 20, thousands of activists poured into Jena – population 3,000 residents – to stand up for the Jena Six.

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Written by BET-Staff

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