West Memphis Teen Pleads Guilty to Vandalizing MLK Monument

APRIL 27, 2005 - Posted at 7:54 a.m. CDT

WEST MEMPHIS, AR - A 17-year-old boy has entered a guilty plea in juvenile court at West Memphis to a charge of defacing an article of public respect.  The charge was filed after a newly erected monument to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was knocked over and destroyed on April 9, about a week after it was erected.

The youngster was not named because his case was handled in juvenile court.  Juvenile court probation director D.C. Barnes said the boy has already paid $9,000 in restitution to the Delta Neighborhood Action Council, which erected the memorial.

Barnes said Juvenile Court Judge Lee Fergus also ordered the teenager to serve a year of supervised probation.

Barnes said the judge also added some conditions that are specific to the case:

-attending counseling for cultural sensitivity and anger management.

-sending an anonymous letter of apology to be published in daily newspapers at West Memphis and Memphis, Tennessee.

-providing an apology to be aired by Memphis television stations.

-touring the National Civil Rights Museum at Memphis.

-serving 120 hours of community service.

-and writing a thousand-word essay on the life and works of King.

Barnes said the juvenile agreed to the added conditions in lieu of being charged as an adult, which could have meant up to ten years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Barnes said he and the judge want the youngster to understand what he did.  Barnes said he thought that King would have probably been the type of person to forgive him for what he did, and give him a chance to learn from it.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)