Five black students accused of beating a white classmate in Louisiana pleaded no contest to misdemeanor civil battery today, ending a trial that triggered a huge civil rights demonstration, the Alexandria Town Talk reports. Critics said that the so-called "Jena Six," originally charged with attempted murder, were treated harshly for being black. A judge fined them $500 each and sentenced them to a week of unsupervised probation.
As part of the deal—which did not admit guilt, but conceded that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict them—the boys read a statement saying victim Justin Barker did not provoke the attack, the AP reports. "Not one of us heard Justin use any slur," they said. The sixth member of the group, Mychal Bell, pleaded guilty to second-degree battery in 2007 and received an 18-month sentence.