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'Jena 6' teen agrees to plea deal

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  • NEW: "Jena 6" defendant will plead guilty to second-degree battery, lawyer says
  • NEW: More serious charges dropped in beating of classmate by six students
  • NEW: Mychal Bell to spend 18 months in halfway house or group home
  • Thousands marched through Jena in September to protest handling of case
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JENA, Louisiana (CNN) -- Mychal Bell, the 17-year-old black teenager whose arrest and detention led to the "Jena 6" protests, has agreed to a plea deal that could lead to his release by June, his lawyer said Monday.


Mychal Bell was released in September but was ordered two weeks later to spend 18 months in a juvenile facility.

Bell was originally charged as an adult with attempted murder in an assault on a white fellow student, Justin Barker, at Jena High School in 2006.

He was convicted of second-degree battery, but the verdict was tossed out in September when an appeals court ruled that Bell, who was 16 at the time of the attack, should not have been tried as an adult. He still faced charges in the juvenile system.

Under the deal announced Monday, the LaSalle Parish District Attorney's Office agreed to drop charges of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery.

Bell agreed to plead guilty to second-degree battery.

He had to agree that he "hit Justin Barker, knocking him unconscious," a Bell attorney said.

Bell would be sentenced to 18 months of custody in an unsupervised setting, such as a group home or a halfway house.

In addition, Bell would be required to pay $935 to Barker's family and court costs, his lawyer said.

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Barker's family has said his medical bills reached $12,000, but prosecutors apparently plan to seek money from five other black students also implicated in the beating.

Bell would have to testify in those cases as part of any plea deal.

Bell and the other five students, dubbed the "Jena 6," were originally charged in adult court with attempted murder and conspiracy.

The charges were later reduced to battery and conspiracy, and Bell is the only one of the youths to remain in jail.

Bell was convicted of the charges against him in July. But judges overturned both convictions, finding that the cases should have been brought in juvenile court.

Although he was released in September after his adult conviction was overturned, Bell was ordered two weeks later to spend 18 months in a juvenile facility for a probation violation relating to an earlier juvenile conviction.

A lawyer for Bell said his client wants to go back to high school, where he was a football star, but "probably not in Jena."

The fight came after months of racial tension in the town, fueled by white teens who hung nooses from an oak tree on the town's high school grounds. But prosecutors have said there was no "direct linkage" between the hanging of the nooses and the schoolyard attack that left Barker with injuries to both eyes and ears, as well as cuts.

An estimated 15,000-plus demonstrators marched through Jena, about 200 miles northwest of New Orleans, in September to protest local authorities' handling of the case.

Tina Corwin, mother of Bryant Purvis, another of the Jena 6, said she was shocked by the plea deal and said her son will not plead guilty to anything. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Susan Roesgen, David Steck and Eric Marrapodi contributed to this story.

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