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Court rules 'Jena 6' defendant to stay behind bars

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: FBI looking into online posting by neo-Nazi white supremacist group
  • Court decides not to release Mychal Bell
  • Whether his bond discussed Friday is unclear; attorneys sought release
  • Bell is the only defendant from group known as "Jena 6" still in jail
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JENA, Louisiana (CNN) -- Mychal Bell, the sole defendant who remains behind bars from the group of teens known as the "Jena 6," will not be released Friday, a court decided.


Mychal Bell, 17, is accused with five others of beating Justin Barker in a school fight.

Bell, 17, has been in jail since his arrest more than nine months ago.

It was not immediately clear what happened in court Friday, where Bell's attorneys had planned to push for his release.

"It is our understanding that the judge refused to give bond or bail to Mychal Bell today," the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist who traveled to Jena for Thursday's rally, said in a written statement.

A source inside the court said the issue of bond was not discussed at the hearing. Attorneys did not immediately comment. The proceedings, involving a juvenile, are not open to media.

Bell's mother left the courthouse in tears.

"We'll be back," shouted one Jena 6 supporter outside the courthouse Friday.

With thousands of demonstrators converging on the small town Thursday to decry what they call "unequal justice," the state's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal ordered a bond hearing for Bell within 72 hours. It was set for Friday morning. Photo See highlights from the march »

Also on Friday, the FBI said it was looking into an online posting by a neo-Nazi white supremacist group that published the home addresses of all six of the African-American teenagers, as well as the phone numbers of some. The group said on its Web site it is calling on followers to "let them know justice is coming."

Bell is the only one of the six teenagers to stand trial so far. District Attorney Reed Walters tried him as an adult and won convictions on two charges.

Walters has said he believes Bell was the instigator of the alleged beating of classmate Justin Barker.

Last week, the appellate court vacated Bell's battery conviction, saying he should never have been tried as an adult. He was 16 at the time; 17 is the legal adult age in Louisiana. A district judge earlier this month tossed out Bell's conviction for conspiracy to commit second-degree battery.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel said it was "premature" to consider releasing Bell. The district attorney will determine whether to refile the charges in juvenile court, a defense attorney said.

Bails for the Jena 6 had been set at between $70,000 and $138,000, and all but Bell posted bond. The judge has refused to lower his $90,000 bail, citing the teen's record, which includes four juvenile offenses -- two simple battery charges among them.

Bell and five other defendants were arrested in the alleged beating of Barker, who is white, at their high school on December 4. The incident followed months of racial tension, sparked originally when three white teens hung nooses from an oak tree the day after a group of black students violated an unofficial rule among students that only whites sit in that area. See timeline of how events unfolded »

Prosecutors originally charged all six black students with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy.

Walters reduced charges against at least four of them -- Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw -- to battery and conspiracy. Bryant Purvis awaits arraignment. Charges against Jesse Ray Beard, 14 at the time of the alleged crime, are unavailable because he's a juvenile.

Civil rights leaders and other demonstrators call events in Jena a sign of unequal justice in the 21st century. The white kids who hung the nooses were briefly suspended from classes but faced no punishments from the legal system.


Donald Washington, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, told CNN that the FBI and other investigators thought the noose incident bore the markings of a hate crime, but a decision was made not to press charges because the case didn't meet federal criteria. The students were under 18 and had no prior records, and no group such as the Ku Klux Klan was found to be behind their actions.

Authorities estimated about 15,000 to 20,000 protesters came out Thursday to Jena -- a town of about 3,000, according to the 2000 census. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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