Five in Jena end case with no-contest pleas

The Associated PressJune 27, 2009 

Five members of the Jena Six pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor simple battery and won't serve jail time, ending a case that thrust a small Louisiana town into the national spotlight and sparked a massive civil rights demonstration.

The five, standing quietly surrounded by their lawyers, were sentenced to seven days' unsupervised probation and fined $500. 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, a statement was read from the five defendants -- all of whom are black -- in which they said they knew of nothing Barker had done to provoke the attack.

The statement also expressed sympathy for Barker and his family, and acknowledged the past 21/2 years had "caused Justin and his parents tremendous pain and suffering."

None of the defendants spoke to reporters.

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 previously had 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.

The only member of the group to serve jail time was Mychal Bell, who pleaded guilty in December 2007 to second-degree battery and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.

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