Mehserle's free, but some protesters could still face jail time


 Johannes Mehserle, the former BART police officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant while he was lying face down on the Fruitvale station train platform on New Year's Day 2009, was released from a Los Angeles jail June 13 after serving a total of 365 days for his involuntary manslaughter conviction. He was sentenced to two years behind bars, but Judge Robert Perry granted him an early release due to credit for time served and good behavior.

The same date of his release, the National Lawyers Guild filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 150 protesters who were mass-arrested during the Nov. 5, 2010 demonstration in Oakland in the wake of Mehersle's sentencing. Meanwhile, a handful of individuals who engaged in the Jan. 14, 2009 and July 8, 2010 protests launched by Grant supporters -- which morphed into riots after community rallies came to an end -- are still battling court cases.

Two of the protesters arrested last July initially faced serious felony arson charges for igniting a trash can, which could have led to incarceration for a longer duration than Mehserle served for fatally shooting Grant.

"There were several felony arrests last July, and people were facing charges that could lead to more than a year, no question about that," noted attorney Dan Siegel of the Oakland-based firm Siegel & Yee. Siegel is currently representing Todd Lister and Adrian Wilson, the two defendants who were accused of arson. The codefendants now face attempted arson charges, carrying a minimum penalty of eight months, with a midterm of one year. "Theoretically, that's what they're still facing," Siegel said, but added that he was confident the as-yet unresolved case would result in a more lenient outcome.

Meanwhile, some of the burglary charges stemming from the looting that occurred in Oakland last July could potentially lead to multi-year sentences, Siegel added, leading to more time in jail than Mehserle served.

Some of the hundreds arrested over the course of the three protests who had prior criminal convictions had their probation or parole immediately revoked as a consequence, said Rachel Jackson, a member of the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant and one of the organizers of the Nov. 5 community rally in downtown Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Of the hundreds of arrests made in Oakland during waves of protests launched by Grant supporters, just a small number were on serious charges such as burglary or arson. The mass arrest of 150 individuals last November was initially made on charges of unlawful assembly, yet nearly all of the arrestees were cited and released after spending up to 24 hours in jail, and all had their charges dropped.

In that instance, Oakland police corralled 150 demonstrators who had been participating in a lawful march through the streets into a residential block in East Oakland. Once they were surrounded, Oakland police -- who were aided in the streets by 32 other law-enforcement agencies that night, according to National Lawyers Guild attorney Rachel Lederman -- placed them all under arrest. No dispersal order was issued prior to making the arrests, and it would have been impossible to comply if one had been issued.

In a class-action lawsuit, the National Lawyers Guild argues that the Nov. 5 protester roundup and mass arrest was a violation of the Oakland Police Department's crowd control policy, and that it constituted a violation of protesters' rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. "Even legal observers and a few people who happened to live in the neighborhood were swept up," Lederman said.

"The policy is clear, and the constitution is clear," she went on. "You must have probable cause to believe an individual is committing a crime. But in this case, the whole crowd was herded onto a residential street, blocked in, and held on the street for hours. There was never a dispersal order, and all exits were sealed off."

The Oakland Police Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Arrestees were held handcuffed in vans, in some cases for hours, without access to a bathroom, Lederman noted. All of the women were subjected to pregnancy tests upon being booked into jail, "which made no sense and was abusive in this particular case," Lederman maintains, because the short time they spent there didn't justify the excuse that the test would have been necessary to determine whether anyone needed prenatal care. Several men, meanwhile, were subjected to DNA swabs, which is "only supposed to happen if you're arrested for a violent felony," according to Lederman. 

Jackson, who was also arrested that night, said she believed police conduct was "incredibly intimidating, and it has a chilling effect on free speech."


Isn't it curious. Dan White convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the premeditated murder of Milk and Moscone by a sobbing, sympathetic jury who agreed that poor Danny ate too many Twinkies, then Johannes Mehserle, the poor Nazi who thought he was reaching for his pepper spray while being recorded on many videos as deliberately reaching for his firearm and systematically shooting Oscar Grant in the back as he lay prone? Then racist LAPD officers kickin the shit out of Rodney King let off by an all-white, sobbing, sympathetic Simi Valley jury. San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles are rife with money-grubbing, shyster lawyers who can persuade ignorant, racist juries that police corruption and misbehavior are justified against the unwashed masses. This is a Golden State sickness of the worst kind. Check out Oakland.

Posted by DanC on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

Thanks Dan C, we need a fucking race war, we need to kill the white man!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

a race war? More like a war on stupid in your case.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 11:35 am

Whew! I don't think I was advocating anything like that. Please don't start your killing spree with me!

Posted by DanC on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 5:28 pm

Suburban progressive warrior Rebbecca complains that laws don't fit her political agenda.

White liberal progressive's from the burbs past 82nd ave in Portland Or. think that intent doesn't matter when their white liberal progressive world view runs afoul of representative democracy. The way that actual elective republican government mixed with representative democracy operates befuddles our spoon fed American SLA brats, who base their world view on "I want because I want it." Not getting what you want when you want it, sucks.

Following is a summation of game theory, how spoon fed American brat, clownish American liberals from Clackamas Town Center, deep think on our American system of laws. Oddly this group of anti Wesley Allan Dodd activists think that only other people need to adhere to our nations laws.

Game theory

"In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero. Cutting a cake is zero-sum game, because taking a larger piece reduces the amount of cake available for others. In contrast, non-zero-sum describes a situation in which the interacting parties' aggregate gains and losses is either less than or more than zero. A zero-sum game is also called a strictly competitive game. Zero-sum games are most often solved with the minimax theorem which is closely related to linear programming duality,[1] or with Nash equilibrium."

Posted by matlock on Jun. 15, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

oh matlock... how you've fallen.

Such quality notions.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 1:33 am

I like the vast majority of SF's progressive am the product of the middle class.

Still me fellow offspring of the middle class makes some odd and dissperate correlations here.

Rioters may face jail time for arson? And it's unfair because the guy they were rioting over went through the court system and is out of jail?


Posted by matlock on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 7:05 am

Matlock, you spelled my name wrong -- again. You don't know where I'm from. You don't know anything about my background. And you're commenting on a news article, not an opinion piece. Your petty personal attacks aren't winning anyone over, just making you look bitter. It's getting old. Try something new.

Posted by rebecca on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 9:39 am

Matlock is self-loathing idiot.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 9:59 am

It's winning me over :-)

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

Looked like an accident to me. But I guess my opinion is in the minority.

Posted by Steve on Jun. 16, 2011 @ 10:03 am

there is a REASON guns have a safety.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2011 @ 11:36 am

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