Mehserle Sentenced to 2 Years

Mehserle Sentenced to 2 Years
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By: Brett Myers

LOS ANGELES-Judge Robert Perry has sentenced former BART transit cop Johannes Mehserle to the minimum sentence of two years in state prison for the shooting death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant.

The sentence comes after more than a year and a half of legal wrangling and community unrest, including violent protests and looting in downtown Oakland. The former BART police officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in July for the January 1, 2009 shooting of the unarmed black man on a train platform in Oakland, CA.

Mehserle's sentence is only a fraction of the maximum sentence he could have received. Judge Perry gave double credit for Mehserle's time served, bringing his total to 292 days, which could put Mehserle behind bars for an additional one year, two months and thirteen days. Mehserle could have faced up to 14 years for the charge, but legal analysts widely speculated the sentence would be on the shorter end of the spectrum. Involuntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum of four years in prison, but a gun enhancement could have added an additional 10 years.

Analysts seized on the disparity between the sentence and the enhancement, arguing that involuntary manslaughter suggests an accidental killing, but that the gun enhancement suggest intentional use of a deadly weapon. That disparity meant that Judge Perry could draw a wide range of interpretations based on the jury's findings.

The shooting stirred up racial tensions in the city and reignited the city's long history of unease between the police and the community. Mehersle, a white man, was videotaped from multiple angles, shooting Grant, a black man.

The reaction to the sentence was immediate in downtown Oakland, with people gathering near city hall expressing anger, and some even crying when they mistakenly thought Mehserle had received probation and would be released following the sentencing. Protests are scheduled for later today. City offices are closed, and many businesses are shutting down early in advance of demonstrations.

Unlike July, when members of the community and media anticipated violent outbreaks after the verdict, no one is quite sure what the community's response might be today. Some businesses have boarded up their windows, but only a fraction of those that shuttered this summer for the verdict.

The final chapter in the case has yet to be written. It's widely expected Mehserle's attorney will appeal the verdict.

Click here for complete Youth Radio coverage of the Oscar Grant/Johannes Mehserle Trial.

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