Oakland is on alert today due to L.A. County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry’s sentencing of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle to a mitigated term of two years in prison. Perry also threw out the gun enhancement portion of the case, saying it wasn’t supported by evidence.
Twenty-eight-year-old Mehserle, who was convicted in July of involuntary manslaughter, fatally shot Oscar Grant, 22, on New Year’s Day 2009 at the Oakland Fruitvale BART station during an arrest that was caught on camera. Mehserle contends he mistakenly pulled out his handgun instead of his Taser when he shot Grant as he lay face down.
The case was originally tried in Alameda County Superior Court but got moved to Los Angeles County in an effort to find impartial jurors and because of violence in Oakland following the occurence.
Prior to Perry’s sentencing today, Mehserle stood before the judge and apologized for the shooting, which he stressed was accidental and not racially motivated, the Associated Press reports.
"I want to say how deeply sorry I am," Mehserle said. "Nothing I ever say or do will heal the wound. I will always be sorry for taking Mr. Grant from them."
He also cried during portions of his 10-minute statement, according to the AP. During proceedings today, Perry said he had received more than 1,000 letters urging a harsh sentence. The AP reports that the judge read some of the letters in the packed courtroom.
Mehserle's possible sentence for involuntary manslaughter was two, three or four years, plus three, four or 10 years for the gun enhancement, according to the S.F. Chronicle. The defense had been pushing for Mehserle's release on probation. Grant’s family, on the other hand, urged for the maximum sentence of 14 years.