4 at Illinois School Indicted

DECATUR, Ill.--Felony charges were filed yesterday against four high school students over a brawl at a football game that led to expulsions and brought Jesse L. Jackson to town.

Jackson, whose protests led officials to close Decatur's three public high schools for safety reasons for a second day yesterday, called the charges "attacks on these students" and said they will "only make matters worse."

While the expelled students are all black, Jackson has said fairness is more at issue than race.

The four students were all charged with mob action, a felony. One was also charged with felony aggravated battery and resisting a police officer, a misdemeanor.

Three of those charged were among six high school students expelled after the Sept. 17 fracas in the bleachers at Eisenhower High School, which Jackson has called "a simple fistfight" but school officials called a melee. The fourth withdrew before he could be expelled.

An attorney for the expelled students planned to file a federal lawsuit seeking to reinstate them.

It was unclear why State's Attorney Larry Fichter waited nearly two months to file charges and whether the other expelled students would be charged. He did not return phone messages.

On Monday, Jackson met for seven hours with school officials and Gov. George Ryan (R), and school board members held a meeting to try to resolve the situation.

The expelled students, who attended Eisenhower or one of Decatur's other public high schools, were offered the chance to attend alternative school after the meeting with Ryan.

Decatur School Superintendent Kenneth Arndt said he ordered the three schools closed, idling some 2,700 students, for safety reasons after Jackson rejected the school board's decision to reduce the students' two-year expulsions and threatened another protest.

Accomplice Guilty in Wyo. Gay Killing

LARAMIE, Wyo.--The last of four defendants arrested in the beating death of gay college student Matthew Shepard has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge for helping dispose of the bloody clothes of one of the killers.

Kristen Price is the former girlfriend of Aaron McKinney, who was sentenced to two consecutive life prison sentences last week for the 1998 murder. McKinney's accomplice, Russell Henderson, is also serving two life terms.

Price originally was accused of accessory after-the-fact to first-degree murder, but the charge was reduced to interfering with a police officer, a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors accused Price and Chasity Pasley, who was Henderson's girlfriend, of helping dispose of Henderson's bloody clothes. Pasley is serving 15 months to two years in prison after pleading guilty to an accessory charge.