LINDEN, Texas -- Citing the crime's seriousness, a judge yesterday added short jail terms to sentences recommended by juries for two of four white men convicted of assaulting a mentally disabled black man and leaving him in a field.
Billy Ray Johnson was found unconscious on a fire ant mound and now lives in a nursing home, where he is unable to walk without help or speak clearly. Two men entered plea deals, and two were acquitted of more serious charges.
White supporters of the men note they are all from prominent families and had been in no previous legal trouble. But other residents -- blacks and whites -- say the case has been tainted by small-town politics and racism.
Judge Ralph K. Burgess invoked his right yesterday to add short jail terms for James Hicks and Christopher Amox. Both were convicted by a jury. Hicks, 26, a county jailer at the time of the assault, got 10 years' probation and 60 days behind bars. Amox, 20, got two years' probation, a $4,000 fine, and a 30-day jail sentence.
The judge sentenced Dallas Stone, 19, to five years' probation, a $2,000 fine, and 30 days in jail. sentencing for John Wesley Owens, 22, was delayed due to a scheduling conflict. Stone and Owens entered guilty pleas.
Authorities said that Johnson was lured by whites to a party where underage drinkers served him alcohol and picked on him.
Owens and Stone, who pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge of injury to a disabled person by omission, testified that Amox and Johnson were arguing about country versus rap music when Amox told Johnson to leave.
Then Amox swung at Johnson, who fell and began vomiting, according to testimony. The men loaded Johnson into a truck and drove to an old tire dump, where they left him on the ant hill.