Mychal Bell, the only Jena Six teen who is still in jail, will remain behind bars for about eight more months after a plea deal was struck with prosecutors on Monday (December 3), according to The Associated Press.
According to the reported terms of the deal, Bell — the alleged instigator in the beating of white classmate Justin Barker in December 2006 — pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree battery, which was down from an original charge of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit same. He also agreed to an 18-month sentence in a juvenile facility, AP reports.
Bell was reportedly granted credit for 10 months of his sentence for time already served. Without a plea agreement, Bell could have remained in juvenile detention 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, according to AP.
As part of the deal, Bell must also provide financial restitution to the Barker family for court costs in the amount of $935, according to reports. Finally, he has agreed not to plead the Fifth Amendment in any upcoming court dates for his fellow defendants, and to testify truthfully should any of their cases go to trial.
The plea deal is the latest development in what has been a contentious year for Bell and the small Louisiana town of Jena (population: 3,000), both of which became symbols of what many have called a case of racial injustice in the 21st century. An estimated 20,000 people, including civil-rights leaders the Reverend Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, descended on the town in September to lead massive protests.
Last month, charges against co-defendant Bryant Purvis, were reduced to second-degree aggravated battery, meaning the severity of the charges were reduced for at least five of the six defendants. (It is unknown what charges stand against Jesse Ray Beard, as he is a minor and his records are sealed.)
The tension in Jena originally rose after several nooses were hung from a tree on the grounds of the Jena high school, harkening back to the violent pre-civil rights era.