A Louisiana judge sent Mychal Bell back to jail yesterday, claiming that his involvement in the beating of Justin Barker violated the terms of his probation.

A judge decided the fight that thrust a teenager into the center of a civil rights controversy violated his probation for a previous conviction and ordered the boy back to jail, the teen’s attorney said.

Mychal Bell, who along with five other black teenagers is accused of beating a white classmate, had gone to juvenile court in Jena on Thursday expecting another routine hearing, said Carol Powell Lexing, one of his attorneys.

Instead, state District Judge J.P. Mauffrey Jr. sentenced Bell to 18 months in jail on two counts of simple battery and two counts of criminal destruction of property, Lexing said.

This is ludicrously arbitrary. The timing of this decision, weeks after Bell’s release, suggest that Reed Walters and Judge Mauffrey spent a great deal of time figuring out how they could get Bell back in jail. Mauffrey is the judge who originally refused to allow a bail hearing for Bell after his conviction in adult court was overturned on appeal. Bell’s attorneys had previously and unsuccessfully tried to have him removed from the case.

The criminal justice system in Jena is broken. Their selective prosecution of black citizens, their monumental efforts to keep Mychal Bell in jail and the racist sympathies of the Mayor are proof that there is no possible way for Bell or any of the Jena Six to retain their constitutional rights to due process.

Sharpton framed the judge’s decision in pettier terms.

“We feel this was a cruel and unusual punishment and is a revenge by this judge for the Jena Six movement,” said Sharpton, who helped organize the protest held Sept. 20, the day Bell was originally supposed to be sentenced.

There’s probably something to that. The AP quotes something from the SPLC suggesting that the recent influx of hate crimes involving nooses is a backlash against the protests in Jena:

“We’re seeing a lot of generalized white resentment,” he said. “The conversation among many white people, particularly in the South, amounts to the idea that Jena was a black-on-white hate crime that is being widely misconstrued as a case of racial oppression of blacks.”

The knee-jerk reaction of a racist when confronted with a manifestation of black power and agency is the desire to put a black man “back in his place.” For now, Judge Mauffrey and Reed Walters have their wish.

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