Ri­ots leave Oak­land tense, with sen­tenc­ing in po­lice shoot­ing ahead

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Paul Elias and Greg Ris­ling

SAN FRAN­CISCO — The in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter con­vic­tion of a white for­mer tran­sit of­fi­cer in the death of an un­armed black man set the stage for a sen­tenc­ing that could be just as ex­plo­sive as the trial depend­ing on how the judge in­ter­prets the ver­dict.

Los An­ge­les Su­pe­rior Court Judge Robert Perry has a tremen­dous amount of dis­cre­tion in hand­ing down pun­ish­ment Aug. 6 against Jo­hannes Mehserle — any­where from pro­ba­tion to 14 years.

A sen­tence on the low end could fur­ther in­flame ten­sions among the hun­dreds of an­gry peo­ple who took to the streets of Oak­land on Thurs­day over what they be­lieve should have been a murder con­vic­tion.

In­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter con­vic­tions call for two to four years in prison, but Perry could tack on an ad­di­tional three to 10 years be­cause a gun was used to com­mit the crime.

“I think he could get sub­stan­tial Thurs­day night, 78 peo­ple were ar­rested in Oak­land as ri­ot­ers aban­doned peace­ful protests against the in­vol­un­tary man­slaugh­ter ver­dict in a 2009 shoot­ing. time, by that I mean like six years,” said John Bar­nett, a de­fense at­tor­ney from Orange County who rep­re­sented one of four Los An­ge­les po­lice of­fi­cers ac­quit­ted of beat­ing Rod­ney King in 1992. “There is go­ing to be a lot of pres­sure to give him state prison.”

In a hand­writ­ten let­ter re­leased Fri­day, Mehserle sug­gested a pos­si­ble prison term wouldn’t be his only pun­ish­ment for killing 22-year-old Os­car Grant.

He said he will for­ever “live, breathe, sleep and not sleep” with the me­mory of Grant dy­ing on the train plat­form and “know­ing that Mr. Grant should not have been shot.”

Mehserle, 28, could be fac­ing more than state prison time if a civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion planned by the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment leads to charges and a fed­eral con­vic­tion.

In a move rem­i­nis­cent of the King beat­ing case in Los An­ge­les, fed­eral au­thor­i­ties said they would in­ves­ti­gate the shoot­ing.

The ver­dict against Mehserle en­flamed emo­tions in Oak­land, where 30 busi­nesses were dam­aged and 78 peo­ple were ar­rested for vi­o­la­tions that in­cluded fail­ure to dis­perse, van­dal­ism and as­sault­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Demon­stra­tions, which be­gan with peace­ful speeches near Oak­land City Hall, turned into spates of vi­o­lence af­ter night­fall when about 200 ag­i­ta­tors broke off from the calm protests and got into scuf­fles with law en­force- ment of­fi­cers from mul­ti­ple agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol, Hay­ward po­lice, East Bay Re­gional Parks po­lice and Alameda County sher­iff’s of­fice.

As peo­ple be­gan com­ing to work Fri­day in the fi­nan­cial district about 8 a.m., they walked along the side­walks, point­ing at the dam­age — a bro­ken win­dow here, a spray-painted “Kill the pigs!” there.

“Un­be­liev­able,” one woman ut­tered. “This is so stupid.”

Nearly ev­ery bank along a stretch of Webster and Franklin streets was dam­aged in one way or an­other. The ATM at a Wells Fargo branch had been bro­ken into, and win­dows were smashed at City Na­tional Bank, with “Gimme your $” and “Riot!” painted on one side of the build­ing. Po­lice had yet to re­lease a dam­age es­ti­mate.

The trial of Mehserle, who re­signed from the Bay Area Rapid Tran­sit agency af­ter the shoot­ing, was moved to Los An­ge­les fol­low­ing ri­ot­ing in Oak­land af­ter Grant was killed.

Gen­rao Molina

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