- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2007

JENA, La. (AP) — A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate prompted a massive protest here walked out of a courthouse yesterday after a judge ordered him freed.

Mychal Bell”s release on $45,000 bail came hours after a prosecutor confirmed that he would no longer seek an adult trial for the 17-year-old. Mychal, one of the teenagers known as the Jena 6, still faces trial as a juvenile in the December beating in this small central Louisiana town.

We still have mountains to climb, but at least this is closer to an even playing field, said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize last week”s protest.

He goes home because a lot of people left their home and stood up for him, Mr. Sharpton said as Mychal stood smiling next to him.

There”s only one person who could have brought me through this, and that”s the good Lord,Mychal told reporters later in front of his father”s house.

District Attorney Reed Walters” decision to abandon adult charges means that Mychal, who had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison on his aggravated second-degree battery conviction last month, instead could be held only until he turns 21 if he is found guilty in juvenile court.

The conviction in adult court was thrown out this month by the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal, which said Mychal should not have been tried as an adult on that particular charge. Mr. Walters had said he would appeal that decision.

He said yesterday that he still thinks there was legal merit to trying Mychal as an adult but decided it was in the best interest of the victim, Justin Barker, and his family to let the juvenile court handle the case.

They are on board with what I decided,” Mr. Walters said at a press conference.

Mychal faces juvenile court charges of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit that crime.

He is among six black Jena High School students arrested in December after a beating that left Mr. Barker unconscious and blood. Four of the defendants were 17 at the time, which made them adults under Louisiana law.

Those four and Mychal, who was 16, all were initially charged with attempted murder. Mr. Walters has said he sought to have Mychal tried as an adult because he already had a criminal record, and because he thought Mychal instigated the attack.

In Washington yesterday, the Congressional Black Caucus asked the Justice Department to investigate possible civil rights violations in the case.

This shocking case has focused national and international attention on what appears to be an unbelievable example of the separate and unequal justice that was once commonplace in the Deep South, the group of 43 lawmakers said in a letter to acting Attorney General Peter Keisler.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department has been closely monitoring the case and also is investigating charges of threats against the students and their families.

Since these investigations are ongoing, the department cannot comment any further, Mr. Roehrkasse said.

Top Justice officials were set to discuss the case today with such black leaders as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and National Urban League President Marc Morial.

The caucus also sent a separate letter asking Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to pardon Mychal.

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