OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle is spending time with his family this week after his release from jail for killing BART passenger Oscar Grant III, his attorney said Wednesday.
Mehserle, 29, was released from the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail around 12:30 a.m. Monday after serving a total of about a year in custody for his involuntary manslaughter conviction for killing Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, at the Fruitvale station in Oakland shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2009.
Mehserle “is glad to be out of custody and spending time with his family,” Michael Rains, his lawyer, said.
Mehserle is now at an undisclosed location with his girlfriend and their 2 ½-year-old son and will also be spending time with his parents, his sister and other family members, Rains said.
Rains said Mehserle will begin looking for a job next week but at this point he does not know what will materialize or where Mehserle will wind up living.
“Where he settles down depends on safety, security and job considerations,” Rains said.
Mehserle shot Grant after he and other BART officers responded to reports that there had been a fight on a train.
In a highly-publicized trial that was moved to Los Angeles because of concerns about whether Mehserle could get a fair trial in Alameda County, Mehserle admitted that he shot and killed Grant but said he had meant to use his Taser on Grant and fired his service gun by mistake.
Alameda County prosecutors sought to have Mehserle convicted of second-degree murder, but in a verdict on July 8 that sparked a large protest in downtown Oakland, jurors only convicted Mehserle of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
On Nov. 5, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry sentenced Mehserle to two years in custody. Mehserle was released after serving only one year because of credits he received.
Mehserle was free on $3 million bail from Feb. 6, 2009, until his conviction on July 8, but Rains said this week is the first time that Mehserle has been able to spend time with his family without the threat of a trial hanging over him.
He noted that Mehserle’s son was born the day after Grant was killed and said Mehserle is glad to be spending time with him.
Rains said Mehserle would like to get a job in retail or sales “because he’s so good with people.”
Mehserle “is a people person and will try to find a job where he’s not buried in an office somewhere,” Rains said.
He said Mehserle, who graduated from high school and junior college in Napa, used to do wine sales and “people liked him.”
However, Rains admitted that an employer might not want to hire Mehserle for a job in which he deals with the public because many people in the Bay Area despise him and he has received death threats.
“There are security issues and he’s a hot potato of sorts,” Rains said.
Mehserle “would like to stay in the Bay Area because he grew up here and likes the Bay Area,” Rains said.
But at the same time he said “you have to be realistic” and said Mehserle might have to consider getting a job out of the state if he cannot find a job in California and does not feel that he and his family would be safe.
Mehserle cannot return to being a police officer at this time because of his felony conviction.
But Rains said resuming police work would be a possibility if Mehserle’s appeal were successful or if his conviction were reduced to a misdemeanor and his criminal record expunged.
He said there will be oral arguments in Mehserle’s appeal this fall and there could be a ruling late this year or early next year.
However, Rains said he was not sure if Mehserle would want to go back to being a police officer after his experience in the incident in which he killed Grant.
“He loves being a police officer, but he knows there are potential consequences,” Rains said.
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)