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JENA — Attempted murder and conspiracy charges against a black high school student accused in the December beating of a white student were reduced yesterday to less serious charges that could mean far less time in prison if he is convicted.

Mychale Bell still faces trial today on charges stemming from the Dec. 4 beating. But instead of facing sentences totaling 80 years, he now faces maximum sentences totaling 22 years if convicted in the racially charged case.

Mychale was one of five black Jena High School students charged in the beating, which occurred about three months after three white students were suspended for hanging nooses from a schoolyard tree. Prosecutors have refused to discuss details of the case.

Mychale’s charges were reduced to aggravated second-degree battery, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years, and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery, which would carry a maximum sentence of 7½ years, according to statutes on the state government Web site.


Transmitters track endangered snake

KENNEBUNK — State biologists are using small radio transmitters to learn about the black racer, a snake on the state’s endangered species list. The $30,000 tracking project studies the snake’s range and terrain.

So far, the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has implanted transponders into two black racers and released them into the woods.


Time-capsule gas to be analyzed

NORMAN — The Plymouth Belvedere buried in a time capsule was rusty and undrivable, but gasoline stored with the car could have scientific value.

The people who put together the time capsule 50 years ago in Tulsa included two containers of gasoline in case fuel was no longer available for the Plymouth when the vault was unsealed this year.

“We’re going to begin fingerprinting the gasoline and compare it to modern-day gasolines,” said Paul Philp, a professor of petroleum and environmental geochemistry at the University of Oklahoma. Mr. Philp, who specializes in environmental forensic work, hopes researchers will be able to use the comparison of old and new gas as a reference to determine the age of gasoline spills that have leaked into the ground.

The time capsule, a concrete vault buried under the lawn of the Tulsa County Courthouse, was unsealed June 15. Although the Belvedere had been sealed in protective wrapping, water had penetrated the vault and the two-door hardtop was covered with rust.


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