Plea Bargain Ends Heather Ellis Checkout Line Fiasco
A black school teacher accused of cutting in line at Walmart pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.
Ellis, 24, insisted that her guilty plea was a victory, the St. Louis Dispatch reports. But the plea deal was the same one that prosecutors had offered before the racially tinged trial began last week.
The deal sparred Ellis from a possible felony conviction after the racially charged confrontation at Walmart three years ago.
Under the agreement, if Ellis stays out of trouble for a year, the charges will be sealed and the arrest won't be on her permanent record.
According to the terms worked out with Special prosecutor Morley Swingle, Ellis will serve a year of unsupervised probation, attend an anger management course and serve four days in jail before the end of the year.
Swingle said he was pleased with the outcome and others will see that resisting police comes with consequences.
As we previously discussed, witnesses and police say Ellis cut in front of customers at a Walmart in January 2007. She pushed aside merchandise belonging to another customer and threw a fit, hitting and kicking officers who asked her to leave the store.
Ellis claims she joined her cousin in the checkout line and was ignored by the clerk. Ellis also claims she peacefully left the store and did not threaten officers.
A camera from above the cash register showed Ellis' arm shoving merchandise. Another camera showed her being led out of the store by police, with her arm in the air.
The Heather Ellis case has attracted national attention. The American Civil Liberties Union has said the incident is an example of racial bias in the small town of Kennett, Missouri, where 13 percent of the population is African American.
Ellis' family and and leaders of the local African-American community also have organized protest marches to shed light on the issue.
Two years ago, prosecutors offered a plea deal under which Ellis would have received probation if she dropped her complaint against the police.
- Woman to plead guilty to misdemeanors in Missouri Wal-Mart scuffle (CNN)
- Race is subtext of Bootheel trial over 2007 fracas at Walmart (St. Louis-Disptach)
- Stages of a Criminal Case (FindLaw)
- Assault Overview (provided by Law Offices of John J. Zarych)
- Criminal Defense FAQs (provided by The Crowley Law Firm)