Black Youth Facing 22 Years for Schoolyard Fight

By JR Santo

Jul 26, 2007 1:53pm

The FBI, Justice Department, and the U.S. attorney’s office are set to meet in Jena, La., today to discuss possible civil rights violations revolving around a racially-charged schoolyard beating. The case involves the assault of a white student, Justin Barker, at Jena High School by six black schoolmates. Mychal Bell, the first of the six students to be tried in court, was convicted of aggravated second-degree battery and faces up to 22 years and six months in prison. The remaining five students have not yet faced trial. Critics have called the charges outrageous, citing the facts that Barker only received minor injuries and was released from the hospital that same day so he could attend a school ceremony. Civil rights leaders say the black defendants, now known as the "Jena 6," have received unequal treatment compared to white defendants charged with similar crimes. "Justice in La Salle Parish is not meted out equally," said Tory Pegram, development and public education associate for the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The attack on Barker was the latest incident in a series of conflicts between white and black students sparked when black students found three hangman’s nooses dangling from a tree on school property. Robert Bailey, one of the Jena 6, was assaulted at a local party by white students using bottles and fists. Those who assaulted Bailey were only charged with simple battery by the district attorney in La Salle Parish, the district in which Jena lies. Bell’s attorney, Louis Scott, said, "Actions by black students were treated more harshly than actions by white students." Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Unable to post the $90,000 bond, Bell has remained in prison since his arrest. His attorney has delayed sentencing from the scheduled July 31 court date until September 20 to exercise all available legal options. The Justice Department would not comment on the meeting because it is part of "ongoing casework." The district attorney could not be reached for comment. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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