The good folks who sell plywood and/or glass had this day circled on their calendars months ago. Today Johannes Mehserle, the ex-BART cop convicted of involuntary manslaughter for shooting dead unarmed passenger Oscar Grant, learned how long it would take to repay his debt to society.
Following a long, emotional hearing in which Grant's family pleaded for Mehserle to receive the maximum, 14-year sentence and the former cop tearfully pleaded for the opposite, Judge Robert Perry laid down the law: Two years, with 292 days as time served*. This is the lightest sentence Perry could have handed down.
Perry had earlier voiced "serious concerns" over the gun enhancement that could have added an additional 10 years to Mehserle's sentence. "It's
clear beyond any doubt Mehserle used a gun. But if he honestly
believed he had a Taser in his hand, then he did not intend to shoot a
gun," the judge said earlier this morning.
The gun enhancement charge, it turns out, was dismissed -- and a new trial will be held solely regarding gun enhancement.
A number of Downtown Oakland merchants prepared for today's verdict by boarding up their stores. That city is on high alert for potential trouble in the wake of today's sentencing.
The reaction following the July ruling that Mehserle was guilty of involuntary manslaughter was largely peaceful -- until darkness descended upon the city and several hundred violent looters smashed windows, hurled objects at police, and lit fires. That spate of destruction led to 78 arrests -- with many of the offenders hailing from out of town.
It remains to be seen what the man on the street -- and the angry man on the street -- will make of this short sentence.
*Earlier reports pegged Mehserle's time served as 146 or 180 days.
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