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Jena 6 teen pleads guilty to battery

A black teenager whose prosecution in the beating of a white classmate led to one of the largest civil rights protests in years pleaded guilty Monday to a battery charge.

Mychal Bell, 17, originally was charged as an adult with attempted murder in the beating of Justin Barker in December 2006. That charge was reduced before a jury convicted him in June of aggravated second-degree battery. An appeals court threw that verdict out in September and ordered Bell retried as a juvenile.

Under his deal, Bell pleaded guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery in return for an 18-month sentence, with credit for 10 months he already has served. Bell had faced being placed in a juvenile facility until his 21st birthday.

Although he has about eight months left to serve for the beating of Barker, Bell is currently serving a separate 18-month sentence for previous unrelated juvenile charges. He has about 16 months left on that sentence, which will run at the same time as the sentence in the Barker case.


Diocese to pay $37 million

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport agreed Monday to pay out $37 million to more than 150 sex abuse victims under a settlement that requires the bishop to personally apologize to any accusers or relatives who ask.

The deal, hammered out over four days of negotiations, will address the claims of 156 victims of abuse who have come forward, with a portion of the money set aside in the event that more victims come forward.

The agreement completes a necessary step for the diocese, which filed for bankruptcy last year after allegations of abuse against former clergy members, some dating back nearly 70 years. The diocese is expected soon to file a formal plan for reorganization that will include the settlement agreement.


Pork plant workers became ill

State health officials said Monday they were investigating neurological illnesses among 11 workers at a pork processing plant, but that there was no evidence that the public was at risk.

Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan also said there was no evidence that the food coming out of Quality Pork Processing in Austin has been contaminated.

The workers who became ill had symptoms such as numbness, and tingling in their arms and legs.

Five of the workers had symptoms consistent with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a condition characterized by progressive weakness and impaired sensory functions in legs and arms.

The patients included men and women from a range of ages and ethnicities, said State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield. But they all worked in the same part of the plant, removing hog brains with compressed air.


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