NEW: Kendrick Johnson's family given suspended sentence, so they won't go to jail
Parents have staged or attended numerous protests since their son's January 2013 death
He was found dead inside a rolled gym mat at his high school; a federal investigation is ongoing
A jury found Kendrick Johnson’s parents and five other family members guilty of misdemeanor charges related to a 2013 protest, attorney Benjamin Crump said Wednesday.
State Court Judge Mark Mitchell sentenced them to 12 months in jail and suspended the sentence, so they will spend no more time behind bars and will not be placed on probation. They won’t be fined, either.
Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson and five family members were convicted of interference with government property for blocking the entrance to the Lowndes County Courthouse in Valdosta, Georgia, and blocking access to the security checkpoint inside the building.
The demonstration was planned after Johnson’s parents became frustrated with the lack of information they had received from local investigators regarding their son, who was found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat at his south Georgia high school in January 2013, another defense attorney, Chevene King, said earlier this week.
Footage published on YouTube shows authorities arresting family members who held hands, blocking a door to the courthouse. Another video posted to a Kendrick Johnson tribute page on Facebook shows family members later, inside the courthouse, joining hands in front of the checkpoint. The family and others can be heard chanting, “No justice, no peace,” as officers step in to arrest them.
The relatives, who call themselves the “KJ 7,” were arrested and released on bond in the April 25, 2013, incident, King said.
All seven had pleaded not guilty. Each of the seven family members faced the possibility of up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both.
In May 2013, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office announced it was closing its investigation into Johnson’s death after determining that Johnson, 17, slipped into the mat while reaching for a shoe and got stuck. An autopsy completed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded Johnson died of accidental positional asphyxia.
Months later, a pathologist hired by the Johnsons conducted a second autopsy and found evidence of “unexplained, apparent nonaccidental blunt force trauma” to the 17-year-old’s neck. That pathologist concluded the death was a homicide.
In October 2013, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore, launched a federal investigation, which is ongoing.