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Plea deal reached in Missouri store scuffle case

A black school teacher charged with assaulting white police officers during a disturbance at a Walmart has agreed a plea deal with prosecutors convicting her of two misdemeanor counts.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A black schoolteacher charged with assaulting white police officers, resisting arrest and disturbing the peace has agreed a plea deal with prosecutors convicting her of two misdemeanor counts.

The deal announced Friday night followed a trial that had lasted three days and means 24-year-old Heather Ellis will avoid a felony conviction for her part in a January 2007 scuffle at a Missouri Walmart.

Ellis agreed to plead guilty to resisting arrest and peace disturbance. Prosecutor Morley Swingle dropped two felony counts of assault on a law officer.

As part of the deal, Ellis will be placed on unsupervised probation for a year, must serve four days of shock jail time and must attend at least two hours of anger management class.

After the trial, Ellis said despite the conviction she still is pleased that the trial took place so that her story could be told.

The racial overtones of the case drew national interest.

Swingle had said the defense was trying to portray the town of Kennett as "some racist Hooterville."

Witnesses told authorities that Ellis cut in front of waiting customers at the Walmart, shoved merchandise already placed on a conveyor belt out of the way, and became belligerent when confronted.

Ellis maintained she was merely joining her cousin, whose checkout line was moving more quickly. She claimed in a written complaint to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that she was then pushed by a white customer, hassled by store employees, called racial slurs and physically mistreated by Kennett police officers.