Column on Jena Six case might have sparked theft of Central Mo. paper

Most of <i>Muleskinner</i>'s press run stolen

MISSOURI -- A column about the Jena Six case in Louisiana might have led to the theft of thousands of issues of the University of Central Missouri’s The Muleskinner, the newspaper’s managing editor said Tuesday.

About 4,000 copies of last week’s edition were stolen, worth about $1,000 in advertising and $775 in printing costs, said Charles Fair, the paper’s faculty adviser.

“It was a substantial loss for us,” Fair said. “I noticed it in our building as I was going to class. I noticed all the papers were gone. I checked out a couple of other sites and noticed that they were gone too.”

Fair said he sent The Muleskinner‘s staff out to investigate. They soon came back with several witnesses who said they saw what looked like students loading the newspapers into vans.

Katherine Jones, The Muleskinner‘s managing editor, said shortly after the Jena Six column ran she received an angry phone call from a reader.

“She said that the article was, in her words, “causing extreme racial tension’ on campus and that she had witnessed a van driving around picking up Muleskinners,“ Jones said.

Jones said they had about 700 issues after the theft, which they passed out to students.

Matt Vessar, the campus police detective in charge of the investigation, said the theft occurred between 10 p.m. Sept. 20 and 1 p.m. Sept. 21. Vessar said he could not comment about whether police have any suspects because the investigation is ongoing.

If police do find who stole the papers, Jones said newspaper staffers do not know if they would press charges.

“I think that it will definitely be something we look into in the event that we can find out who did it,” Jones said. “It’s all speculation at this point.”

The column said the six black defendants in Jena, four of whom are currently charged with aggravated battery in the beating of a white student, “should not be seen as heroes or even worse martyrs. They are still misguided individuals who physically harmed another human being.”

Of the other two students, one had his conviction overturned because a court concluded he should have been tried as a juvenile; the other’s status has not been released because he is 14.

Chris Bennett, who wrote the Muleskinner column, said in his piece that the previous charges of attempted murder against the six students were “egregious,” but many of those who support freeing them “claim to “support’ these teens” but “do not want to see justice.”

Fair said most of the complaints he has received about the article revolved around the idea that the writer did not give a complete description of the controversy in Jena.

Fair said he thinks the theft was an organized attempt to stop people from reading the article.

“It’s not an appropriate way of indicating displeasure and unhappiness, to steal them all,” Fair said.

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