Civil rights leaders fight to drop felony charges against SOSU students

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DURANT, OK -- Five Southeastern students charged in an April Fool's Day prank will soon have their day in court.

But two civil rights leaders from Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network in Chicago hope it doesn't have to come to that.

"They do not have to pay for this prank with a permanent felony," said Rev. Marshall Hatch.

The charges stem from fake robberies the men staged at the apartments of fellow students back in April.

"We challenge the district attorney here and university officials to look at this case through the eyes of grace and mercy," Hatch said.

The two men met with the district attorney and academic officials Wednesday.

"The last thing you wanna see is a kid's life destroyed for the rest of their lives because of a foolish juvenile prank," Hatch said.

But not everyone sees it as just a prank.

"They need to be punished for what they did because they could have caused one of those people to have a heart attack. Or they could have got shot," said Durant resident Debora Cox.

Hatch said he doesn't condone what the students did, but he feels they've already suffered enough punishment.

"They have paid with their college football careers. They paid a price academically. And they're paying a price now, some of them with their employment," he said.

The students were suspended from the University in May, which sparked a protest from community members.

University officials said they don't want to comment on the matter out of respect to student privacy and the on-going legal issues.

But Hatch says he wants to see the students get a second chance at an education - and a future.

"We've met with the young men and I can tell you, lessons have been learned," he said.

The five students had a preliminary conference hearing with prosecutors this morning. The next court date is set for October.

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