Mychal Bell of ‘Jena Six’ denied fifth year of high school football eligibility

Louisiana Gannett News • August 27, 2008

BATON ROUGE – Despite impassioned pleas from his parents, attorneys and Carroll High School officials, Mychal Bell was denied an extra season of athletic eligibility by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association this morning.

After a nearly 20-minute hearing, the LHSAA’s five-member hardship committee unanimously voted not to grant Bell permission to play this season at Carroll High School in Monroe.

After the meeting, Carroll football coach Jackie Hamilton, who testified on behalf of Bell that it “would only be fair” that he could continue “his academic and athletic career,” declined to comment.

Bell, one of the “Jena Six” defendants accused of beating a fellow Jena High School student in December 2006 and the only one to be tried so far, has been attending classes at Carroll since January as part of his plea agreement.

After being arrested and charged as an adult for attempted second-degree murder in the attack on Justin Barker, Bell spent 10 months in prison awaiting trial. He was convicted of second-degree battery, only to have that conviction overturned on the grounds that he shouldn’t have been tried as an adult.

Bell later took a plea agreement as a juvenile and was sentenced to 18 months as a ward of the state.

Marcus Jones, Bell’s father, pleaded for the hardship committee to give his son one more chance to play football.

“I know Mychal would want his last year to be memorable,” Jones said.

After the decision, Jones laid the blame at the feet of Bell’s lawyers.

“If it weren’t for his attorney, Mychal would be able to play football,” Jones said. “They coerced him into taking that plea agreement. If he wouldn’t have taken that plea, he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in now.”