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Johannes Mehserle, the BART officer convicted for the shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, has been sentenced to two years in state prison by Judge Robert Perry. Mehserle was convicted for involuntary manslaughter by a jury in Los Angeles. Reaction in the city of Oakland is expected to be quick and strong.
Mehserle, who is white, went on trial last June for the shooting death of Oscar Grant, an African American, on a Oakland BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) platform on Jan. 1, 2009. As discussed in a prior post, Grant was unarmed when he was shot by the former officer who claimed at trial that he had intended to use his Taser, but pulled his gun instead. The all white jury found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
The maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter is four years, reports Youth Radio. However, in California, a defendant's sentence can be enhanced when a gun is used in the commission of the crime. Therefore, Mehserle faced a possibility of 4 to 14 years in prison. Judge Perry has given the defendant double credit for his time already served so his actual sentence will be even less than the 4 year minimum some observers expected.
The trial was originally moved to Los Angeles when riots broke out in Oakland after the shooting. In addition, there were some protests and looting following the news of the verdict. News of the very minimal sentence given to Mehserle today will no doubt bring another reaction from the friends, family and supporters of the late Oscar Grant. Youth Radio reports that city offices are closing at 1:00 p.m. and many businesses are boarding up windows or shutting early in anticipation of possible trouble.