Probation Given In Linden Beating Case - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Probation Given In Linden Beating Case

Punishment was handed out today in Linden for four men who beat 44-year-old Billy Ray Johnson, who's mentally challenged, leaving him for dead two years ago.  Many in the small community say it wasn't nearly enough.

Based on a jury's recommendation, 26-year-old James Hicks, a former Cass County jailer, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and ten years' probation. 22-year-old John Owens, 19-year-old Dallas Stone and 20-year-old Christopher Amox were all sentenced to 30 days in jail. Stone received five years' probation. Amox received two years.

"If it was four black men that did it to a white man, white people of Cass County would have hung that black man regardless of the situation they wouldn't have got away with it like these white boys did," said Johnsons cousin Tamika Jackson.

People knew Billy Ray Johnson as a good-natured man who loved to dance. Investigators say Johnson was lured to a pasture party in October of 2003, where the four men were drinking and serving him alcohol.  Then, for reasons unknown, he was beaten. He was hospitalized for weeks. After being beaten at the party, Johnson's body was dumped on a remote county road, he had a severe concussion and was left face down in a pile of fire ants. Many feel racist undertones, and a feeling that no one in the case cared about Johnson.

"He was a man that wanted to live in the community, and he tried to be a man that showed that," said area resident Odell Hoskins.

Aggravated assault was the only charge, and many in the community say it was a mockery of justice.

All were sentenced to 200 hours of community service. Billy Ray Johnson is in a nursing home, where he is undergoing rehabilitation.

Bob Hallmark, reporting.

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