JENA, Louisiana (CNN) — Charges against Bryant Purvis, one of the six black students accused of being involved in beating a white student, were reduced to second degree aggravated battery during his arraignment Wednesday morning. Bryant Purvis says he is focusing on his studies and practicing basketball.
Purvis, who was facing charges of second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy, entered a not guilty plea to the reduced charges in the LaSalle Parish Courthouse in Jena. Charges have now been reduced against at least five of the students in the racially charged “Jena 6” case. Charges against Jesse Ray Beard, who was 14 at the time of the alleged crime, are unavailable because he’s a juvenile.
Civil rights leaders Martin Luther King III and Al Sharpton led more than 15,000 marchers to Jena — a town of about 3,000 — in September to protest how authorities handled the cases against Purvis and five other teens accused of the December 2006 beating of fellow student Justin Barker. After the arraignment, Purvis said he has moved to another town to complete high school. He said he is focusing on his studies and practicing basketball, which he hopes to play in college.
Mychal Bell, 17, is the only one of the “Jena 6” teens still in jail. Although he was released in September after his adult criminal conviction for the beating was overturned, he was ordered two weeks later to spend 18 months in a juvenile facility for a probation violation relating to an earlier juvenile conviction. A district judge tossed out Bell’s conviction for conspiracy to commit second-degree battery, saying the matter should have been handled in juvenile court. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles, Louisiana, did the same with Bell’s battery conviction in mid-September. Prosecutors originally charged all six black students accused of being involved in beating Barker with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy.