LOS ANGELES (CBS/BCN/AP) – A judge has sentenced a former BART police officer to two years in prison in the shooting death of an unarmed passenger on an Oakland train platform.
Johannes Mehserle was convicted in July of involuntary manslaughter in the videotaped, New Year’s Day 2009 killing of 22-year-old Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale station.
The incident sparked rioting and widespread protests by those who viewed it as an unjustified killing of a black man by a white police officer.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry had wide discretion Friday when sentencing the 28-year-old Mehserle.
Prosecutors sought prison time for Mehserle, whose lawyers argued for probation.
Mehserle testified during the trial that he thought Grant had a weapon and decided to shock him with his stun gun but instead pulled his .40-caliber handgun. Grant was unarmed and face down when he was shot.
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Earlier, Grant’s family urged the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter. Four of Grant’s relatives and his fiancee pleaded with Perry to order Mehserle to prison for 14 years.
The family still maintains that it was murder when Mehserle shot Grant as he lay face down on the platform.
Mehserle also spoke, apologizing for a shooting he says was accidental and wasn’t racially motivated.
Before Perry sentenced Mehserle, he first ruled on a motion by Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, asking that Mehserle be granted a new trial. That motion was denied.
The trial was moved to Los Angeles due to concerns about the extensive media coverage in the Bay Area.
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Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums pleaded for peace in reaction to a judge’s decision to sentence Johannes Mehserle to two years in prison.
Dellums said he understands the anger, hurt and disappointment following Friday’s sentencing for the white former transit officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black man.
However, he said he hopes that people will express their emotions “in a manner that is nonviolent, in a manner that is nondestructive to our community.”
Police Chief Anthony Batts said officers are monitoring for possible unrest, but so far there have been no reports of disturbances. He said officers intend to remove anyone who’s behaving dysfunctionally in a crowd.
Dozens of people were gathering after the sentencing announcement outside Oakland City Hall at a rally billed as a tribute for victim Oscar Grant.
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