November 5: Killer Cop Mehserle Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

{This is the first post-sentencing story issued by FOX 2-KTVU, which has performed as the killer’s publicist, after the judge springs the killer with the smallest sentence he could give.  After the Grant family spoke out in outrage at the judge’s sentence, KTVU’s Rita Williams came back time and again to dismiss the family’s rage–continuing her promotion of this killer,  and her dehumanization of Oscar Grant and the Grant family.  We are waiting to hear the voices and the verdicts of the people.–ed]

1:22 pm PDT November 5, 2010

LOS ANGELES — A former BART police officer was sentenced to two years in prison Friday — but credited with nearly a year already served in jail — for the slaying for Oscar Grant III on a Bay Area transit system platform in January 2009.

In sentencing Grant, Judge Robert Perry also dismissed a defense motion for a new trial and tossed out a gun enhancement charge that could have added another four to 10 years to Johannes Mehserle’s sentence.

Mehserle’s involuntary manslaughter conviction had a sentencing range of two to four years. State law also allowed Perry consider granting Mehserle probation under unusual circumstances.

Perry credited Mehserle with time served — 292 days. So Mehserle would be serving a little over a year in prison. In issuing his decision, Perry recognized the community would be upset but said that he did his best and had “not asked for the case.” “Tensions ran high in the courtroom all morning long as a man was escorted out shortly after the motions debate began for an outburst. Perry told the jammed pack Los Angeles County Superior Court courtroom he would not tolerate any outbursts from the crowd.

The trial has been transferred to Los Angeles from Alameda County in a change of venue decision.

Perry read more than a dozen letters for and against Mehserle, noting that some details were “flat-out wrong.” He cited one letter that inaccurately described Grant as handcuffed when he was shot. Letters in support of the former officer stated that racial tensions had blown the case out of proportion.

The judge also noted another letter asked him to enact changes in law enforcement policy — a request the judge said he was powerless to oblige.Perry then heard victim impact statements from family members including an emotional plea from Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, sister Shante Moore, uncle Cephus “Bobby” Johnson and Sophina Mesa, the mother of Grant’s now 6-year-old daughter.In closing his statement, Cephus Johnson yelled at Perry – “We want justice. We Want justice. We will not lose this case because of you. ” Perry responded by saying everyone involved was doing all they could to for justice in the case.

Wanda Johnson wrapped up the family’s statements, begging Perry to sentence Mehserle to the maximum prison sentence of 14 years. “I live every day of my life in pain,” she said. “My son is not here because of a careless action.”Mehserle – dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit – spoke for about 10 minutes. He broke down with emotions during his statement and then apologized to Grant’s family.

Reading from a prepared statement, Mehserle said he would welcome jail if it brought peace to Grant’s family.“I shot a man, I killed a man, it shouldn’t have happened,” he said. He added that the killing had “nothing to do with race or culture.”In the attorneys final statements, prosecutors asked for an undetermined prison term while defense attorney Michael Rains asked for probation saying Mehserle would be living in a “self-constructed prison” for the rest of his life.

The polarizing case had supporters of 22-year-old victim calling for the maximum — 14 years in state prison — while Mehserle sought probation after his conviction for involuntary manslaughter. As the sentence was being read, Oakland police took to the street hoping to avoid a replay of the rioting that followed the videotaped shooting at a train station onNew Year’s Day 2009 and the vandalism after the verdict in July.

Legal experts said attorneys on both sides entered courtroom Friday with compelling arguments. “On the one hand, we have an unarmed citizen shot in the back and a police officer who says it was a tragic accident in the line of duty,” said Steven Clark, a San Francisco Bay Area defense attorney and former prosecutor who has followed the case. “How do you come to a sentence that’s just? It will be extremely difficult. “The use of force against Grant has drawn comparisons to the infamous 1991 Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police officers. It also has enflamed racial tensions in inner-city communities that still simmer nearly two years after Grant was killed.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officers said the verdict and sentence would have implications about their use of force.Ron Cottingham, president of the California Peace Officers Association, the group behind Mehserle’s legal fund, said Mehserle could be just the second officer in California in recent memory to be sentenced on a gun enhancement.”It will send a chilling message to all police officers trying to do their job in a lawful and efficient manner in which Mr. Mehserle believes he was trying to do that night,” Cottingham said. “Our viewpoint is that this was an accident,” he added. “He was not a rogue cop looking to take any vengeance out on somebody. He was just trying to do his job.”

Grant was shot while lying face-down on a transit station platform after Mehserle and other Bay Area Rapid Transit officers responded to reports of a fight at the Fruitvale train station.Mehserle testified during his trial that he struggled with Grant and saw him digging in his pocket. Fearing Grant may have a weapon, Mehserle said he decided to shock Grant with his Taser but pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead.

At least five bystanders recorded the shooting on video that was played at trial. Prosecutors had sought a second-degree murder conviction but Perry decided to allow the jury to consider voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter convictions as well.

In reaching its decision, the jury found Mehserle didn’t mean to kill Grant, but his behavior was criminally negligent.

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