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Government to Charge Mehserle in Civil Rights Violations of Oscar Grant

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by hearit

hearit's picture
In The News

Johannes Mehserle--the white Oakland transit police officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant, a young black man--has been deemed guilty by a jury, but not of murder. Oakland riots followed the Involuntary Manslaughter verdict that many feel is too light --the U.S. Federal government and even FBI is now stepping in, to decide whether Mehserle is guilty of civil rights violations in the Grant shooting. It could all mean more prison time—of many years--for the Northern California police officer, if he is found guilty of violating Grant’s civil rights.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights division--along with the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco city and also the FBI--are conducting a review to determine whether the Mehserle case could warrant federal prosecution. The Justice Department Civil Rights review of the shooting and case will begin after California state's court case has been completed. With police officer Mehserle's sentencing postponed until August 6, 2010, the federal government won't be stepping until then.

The U.S. Federal government's involvement is extremely rare but does occur. Two of the four Los Angeles policemen involved in the beating of Rodney King were convicted on federal civil rights charges after the police officers were acquitted in California state court.The federal government has decided to intervene following yesterday's verdict in the trial of Johannes Mehserle. The Justice Department's civil rights division, along with the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco and the FBI, are conducting a review to determine whether the case warrants federal prosecution. The review will begin after the state's case has concluded, following Mehserle's sentencing on August 6th.

Johannes Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for shooting Oscar Grant in the back, in an Oakland BART subway station. Officer Mehserle claims he was attempting to subdue Oscar Grant following a fight on the train. Five witnesses captured video footage of the January 2009, New Year's, shooting of Grant. When Grant was shot, he was physically laying facedown on a transit platform--shot at close range in the back, and with the 22-year-old Oscar Grant dying the following day in a hospital.

Oakland Police Officer Mehserle claims and testified that he had accidentally drawn his service weapon gun, instead of his electric Taser weapon. Police officers immediately confiscated the cellular video footage taken on mobile phones, taken by surrounding witnesses—those officers were not able to confiscate all of the video, and riots ensued after Oakland residents viewed the video and incident that many believe was racially motivated.

After the Mehserle trial verdict was read in Los Angeles—with Mehserle receiving the least guilty verdict that the jury could award--emotions sparked in Oakland, violence and rioting again ensued over Grant’s shooting. At least 12 businesses were damaged and more than 80 people were arrested as riots again erupted when the court trial involving Oscar Grant ‘s death completed. Many believe that the guilty verdict Mehserle received—of Involuntary Manslaughter—is too light of a sentence, where the police officer would most likely spend only two to four years in prison or less. Technically, officer Mehserle could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison in sentencing August 6—but most experts believe the prison time for the convicted policeman may be far less, falling in the few years range.

Mehserle could face additional time in prison if the Department of Justice charges and convicts the Oakland police officer of violating Oscar Grant's civil rights.

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