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Bouncer manslaughter cases in 2004 death of GSU student dropped
Levon Jones - photo by FILE

    NEW ORLEANS — Prosecutors dropped manslaughter charges Wednesday against the last two Bourbon Street bouncers accused of suffocating a visiting Georgia Southern University student to death after a dispute about getting into a French Quarter karaoke bar on New Year’s Eve 2004.
    Levon Jones, 26, died on the sidewalk outside the Razzoo Bar and Patio with four bouncers pinning him down. Brandon Vicknair and Matthew Taylor, along with two other bouncers, had been accused of killing the student by pinning him to the ground and putting him in a choke hold.
    Jones’ death on a street where tourists party night and day in music clubs, strip joints, bars and restaurants sparked questions of racism and discrimination. Jones was black and the bouncers are white.
    Police and prosecutors never detailed what role they believed each bouncer played.
    A Baton Rouge jury acquitted bouncer Clay Montz of manslaughter in August and Arthur Irons was acquitted on the same charge by a Calcasieu Parish jury in April.
    Initially, three of the four men — Irons, Montz, and Taylor —were charged with negligent homicide, a lesser charge that carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. Manslaughter carries up to 40 years. Prosecutors did not explain the change. All four had pleaded not guilty.
    ‘‘The state decided not to go through with the prosecution,’’ said Franz Zibilich, attorney for Taylor. ‘‘I think it’s a very responsible decision.’’
    Jones, a Georgia Southern student, was in New Orleans for a flag football tournament. The four bouncers pinned him down after Jones’ friends challenged a doorman’s refusal to let them into the bar, saying they didn’t meet the dress code. Jones’ family said white patrons in similar attire were allowed in.
    The coroner said Jones suffocated as one bouncer held him in a headlock for 12 minutes and another pushed down on his back, preventing him from breathing. A third held Jones’ legs. Coroner Frank Minyard found that Jones was asphyxiated and classified the death as homicide.
    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a march following the death to raise awareness of racism in Louisiana’s biggest city, said Danatus King, president of the New Orleans chapter.
    Jones’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the bar claiming race was a factor in the death.
    A study by the city after the death found blacks were discriminated against in the French Quarter in a variety of ways.
    The study paired black and white men of the same body style, dress and manner, and sent them into 28 Bourbon Street bars within minutes of each other to evaluate the treatment they received.
    In 57 percent of the bars the blacks received less favorable treatment than their white counterparts. In 40 percent of the test blacks were charged more for drinks. In 10 percent they were told there was a drink minimum which they would have to buy, while the whites weren’t. In 7 percent of the bars, blacks were told they would have to meet a dress code, while the whites, dressed in the same fashion, were not.

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