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Friday, October 12, 2007

Jena 6 - Update

Raw Story tells us that Mychal Bell, one of the six African-American students involved in the hate-crime incident at the high school in Jena, LA, has been sentenced to 18 months in a juvenile facility. The decision was handed down by Judge J.P. Mauffrey on the grounds that the teen was in violation of probation. Judge Mauffrey also presided at the initial trial, which had such a notably biased outcome.
"We feel this was a cruel and unusual punishment and is a revenge by this judge for the Jena Six movement," said Sharpton. "His parents were also charged with the cost of all court costs and witness costs and will have to pay for him in the facility. I have committed that National Action Network will financially support the parents through this unusual financial strain imposed upon them."

"I don't know what we're going to do," Bell's father had told AP. "I don't know how we're going to pay for any of this. I don't know how we're going to get through this."
I'm glad that someone's speaking up for the young man. But I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this new sentence. The fact that the judge has not set bail is interesting.

I note that none of the white students involved in originally provoking the fracas and pulling a gun on AA students has been punished. According to AP, they were suspended from school but faced no legal proceedings despite the provocative hate-crime nature of their actions.

The AP report also states that District Attorney Walter Reed, who originally brought the charges of attempted murder against Bell, was involved in this case:
"This matter was unrelated to the December 2006 event at Jena High School, and that case was not even mentioned in the court proceedings," District Attorney Reed Walters said Friday.
This is how black, Hispanic, and working-class white youth are criminalized. They do something stupid and possibly destructive (which seems to be part of being young and male, and reprehensible in my opinion, especially when they're doing it to me or someone I know), and they get juvie. The next time they do something stupid and destructive, they "have a record" so, if they're old enough they get charged with a more serious offense, or receive a stiffer penalty. And then they violate some condition of their probation, so that becomes an added charge, and the next thing you know, they're doing serious jail time because they're a "repeat offender" or "habitual criminal," or whatever the phrase of the day is.

Consider, as a contrast, the behaviour of Jeb Bush's son John Ellis, who was discovered naked in his car with his girlfriend in 2000, and who was arrested in 2005 for DUI (much like his uncle, the preznitwit). I can't find anything saying that he was sent to jail, although DUI is a pretty serious offense. And John Ellis' older brother, George P. broke into his ex-girlfriend's house, got into an argument with the woman's father, ran away (seems to be a family trait), then returned and drove his SUV in an aggressive manner all over the front lawn, leaving swathes of burned grass. Not arrested because girlfriend declined to press charges. Or John Ellis' sister Noelle, the druggie, arrested for prescription drug fraud, placed in rehab, twice violated conditions of probation by possessing crack cocaine (mere possession is, apparently, a felony), and although nothing major has been heard of her lately, I kinda doubt she's sitting in jail. Here's an interesting detail from the story about her rehab lapses:
Drug prescription fraud, as in the Tallahassee case, is a third-degree felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if convicted. Rolon said she might not face charges if the judge overseeing her case decided to intervene.
Why not accord Mychal Bell the same courtesy? Yes, he's a brawling brat, but you can't beat up more than one or two people at a time, and he's highly unlikely to kill them. It seems as if the Bush juveniles could easily kill someone by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Multiple someones, even.

Where's the justice?

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