Civil Rights Activist Convicted in Drug Trial, Faces Decades Behind Bars

Civil rights activist Catrina Wallace, who received national attention for her role in organizing protests around the Jena Six case, was convicted today of three counts of distribution of a controlled substance.

The case was heard by 28th District Judge J. Christopher Peters, a former Assistant District Attorney and the son of Judge Jimmie C. Peters of the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal. Wallace was represented by Krystal Todd of the Lasalle Parish Public Defenders Office. The 12-person jury had one black member. The case was prosecuted by Lasalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters, who also prosecuted the Jena Six case, and famously told a room full of students, "I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of my pen."

Wallace was arrested as part of Operation Third Option, which saw more than 150 officers, including a SWAT team and helicopters, storm into Jena's black community on July 9, 2009. Although no drugs were seized, a dozen people were arrested, based on testimony and video evidence of a police informant, convicted drug dealer Evan Brown. So far, most of those arrested on that day have plead guilty and faced long sentences. Devin Lofton, who pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute, received ten years. Adrian Richardson, 34, who pled guilty to two counts of distribution, received twenty-five years. Termaine Lee, a twenty-two-year-old who had no previous record but faced six counts of distribution, received twenty years.

For more information on this case, see this previous coverage in the Huffington Post.

Wallace, who is 30, became an activist after her brother, Robert Bailey, was arrested and charged with attempted murder for a school fight. Bailey and five others later became known as the Jena Six. Their case eventually brought 50,000 people on a march through the town of Jena, and as a result of the public pressure the six young men were eventually freed. The six young men are all now in college or -- in the case of the youngest -- on their way. Wallace, a single mother, has three small children, aged 3, 5, and 10. The youngest child has frequent seizures.

Wallace was taken from the courtroom straight to jail after the verdict was read, and given a one million dollar bail. Her sentencing is expected to come next month.