...actually, he’s been free for a long time.
Before I get to this piece, you might want to see the notice in my previous post regarding my appearance on internet radio this evening to discuss the Jena 6, including the contents of this article. Edited to add: Here is that broadcast
Bell's lawyer, Lewis Scott, did me the pleasure of speaking with me yesterday afternoon.
Mychael Bell has been living in foster care with a family in Monroe Louisiana since January, and attending Carrol high school. From when I first heard the term "foster care" months back I thought and had it described to me as a half-way house or a group home; but Scott explains that Bell is "under the supervision of Office of Youth Development", which is a division of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Scott detailed the different levels of custody that a convicted juvenile of Bell's status could be subject to from detention center incarceration down to release, and says that the foster system supevision is where Bell was appointed; describing him as having a curfew and other legal restrictions equivelent to what you would expect a teenagers limitations to be in a good home.
Scott reports that Bell's mother has regular visitation, and that his grandmother may be moving to the same Monroe neighborhood as his foster home soon.
As stated previously he's been attending regular public school since January, even going to the prom this spring. The once star running back for Jena High who'd receive numerous recruitment letters from universities around the country before the December 2006 beating of Justine Barker at Jena high, is receiving interest again from some schools within the state of Louisisana.
Better than his football fortunes though, he finished this past semester with a 3.1 GPA. He's already classified as a Senior, and if he were to take a full load in the fall, he can graduate in December. His natural graduation date would have been this May.
Speaking of fall plans, and returning to football, Bell is hoping to play at Carroll high; but still must receive clearance from the school system. Scott told me that there's "still an issue for eligibility" relating to the number of consecutive semesters in school. But he doesn't handle that type of issue, so he was not able to specifically recite the school system policy on that.
While some are not interested in having Bell around, and some Jena 6 supporters not interested in what he does athletically, just academically; Carroll High's Coach Jackie Carroll is pretty damn excited about the prospect.
Why we're just finding out
Now, as to why no one in the media or in the activist really knew Bell's status all these months; well, because that's how his attorney Lewis Scott intended it. He says he felt bad when he was often asked about it since he wasn’t revealing the information; because he felt it more important that Bell have the opportunity to become re-acclimated to normal life without the media in his face. He says he wanted to correct the misinformation out there but that, "the lawyer's duty is to the client and not the public. I felt a little hurt when people were asking."
Scott continues, "he wasn't a kid really ready for all that" [the media exposure]. " He’s hoping to see Bell become more “outgoing” and “assertive” when talking to people. He feels that he’s not progressed in that regard to the degree that Scott would have liked to have seen at this point. I asked Mr. Scott is that due to his inherent personality, or to the trauma of the events of the last year and a half, and he replied “both”.
Scott relates that even in Jena, the racial stuff was not normally omnipresent, and not stuff Bell normally dealt with before the familiar litany of events that started with the tree controversy in 2006. Further Scott relates that Bell’s status as a star athlete made him somewhat of a town hero, along with “when you have a coach that doesn’t put up with it [racism], you’re kind of insulated from all that”.
“There is nothing in his life that would equip him to deal” with the media and so forth; so therefore Scott felt it was best to keep him out of that spot light and give him space to adjust.
Bell, though not incarcerated in neither on parole is not clearly of sentence either. As state previously, he’s custody status is one of being under the supervision of the Office of Youth development. Scott hopes to have clear within the next month.
Also, in regards to his plea bargin, Bell is not required to testifying against other Jena 6 members.
This pleasant outcome for a young man who just over a year ago was looking at charges amounting to 100 years; is certainly about his life, and not we the activist and protesters.
Nevertheless, there is a lesson here for both naysayers who said we couldn’t help him in the first place, and even for the ones who thought we could; but because he wasn’t freed the next day thought that we ended up wasting our time.
A simple equation for you: Prosecutor wanted 100 years. When that didn’t fly, he still tried for 22. We said free now.
He got out 4 months after the march. 22 years * 12 months = 264 months. 4/264 = 0.015
That is, 4 months is 1.5% the time of 22 years. That means we got 98.5 percent of what we wanted. That’s not only a win, that’s a land slide of epic proportions; an overwhelming thrashing; and elephant stepping on an ant. Even if you want to count in these next 6 months of him being under corrections supervision, it’s still an epic land slide of 96.3%.
I, my blogs, and the Afrosphere Action Coalition remain committed to seeing a just resolution in the cases of the other 5 Jena 6 members – and I am proud to have stood up for them and what was right, whether they be model citizens or not.
We will fight, and we will (already have) win. [great march pictorial put to music]