*Five members of the Jena Six avoided jail time on Friday after pleading no contest to misdemeanor simple battery, ending a case that thrust the small Louisiana town into the national spotlight and sparked a massive civil rights demonstration.
The five were sentenced to seven days unsupervised probation and fined $500, according to the Associated Press. It was a far less severe end to their cases than seemed possible when the six students were initially charged with attempted murder in the 2006 attack on Justin Barker, a white classmate. They became known as the “Jena Six,” after the central Louisiana town where the beating happened.
As part of the deal, one of the attorneys read a statement from the five defendants — all of whom are black — in which they said they knew of nothing Barker had done to provoke the attack.
“To be clear, not one of us heard Justin use any slur or say anything that justified Mychal Bell attacking Justin nor did any of us see Justin do anything that would cause Mychal to react,” the statement said.
The statement also expressed sympathy for Barker and his family, and acknowledged the past 2 1/2 years had “caused Justin and his parents tremendous pain and suffering, much of which has gone unrecognized.”
By pleading no contest, the five do not admit guilt but acknowledge prosecutors had enough evidence for a conviction.
Charges against Carwin Jones, Jesse Ray Beard, Robert Bailey Jr., Bryant Purvis and Theo Shaw had previously been reduced from attempted murder to aggravated second-degree battery. All but Shaw were assessed $500 in court costs. The judge did not tack that punishment on to Shaw’s case because he stayed in jail for almost seven months, unable to raise bail, following his initial arrest.
Each paid the fine and court costs immediately. The payment of restitution to Barker was also part of the deal, but the amount was not released.
The only member of the group to serve jail time was Bell, who pleaded guilty in December 2007 to second-degree battery and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.