A former BART police officer who was fired for his role in a confrontation that ended with the fatal shooting of passenger Oscar Grant III four years ago has been charged with unemployment fraud and grand theft.
The charges against Anthony Pirone, which were filed in mid-April, allege that he collected unemployment checks from the state for a seven-month period in 2011, after he had been fired by BART, even though he had a job.
However, Pirone's attorney, William Rapoport, said today that he thinks the allegations against Pirone are "not provable" and he's "confident" that Pirone, who currently is serving with the Army National Guard in Afghanistan, won't be convicted.
Rapoport said Pirone wasn't on active duty with the military at the time he was receiving the unemployment checks that are the subject of the criminal charges and was only in training with the Army National Guard.
Rapoport said Pirone probably received some type of payments while he was in training but those payments aren't considered earnings or wages that would make him ineligible to collect unemployment benefits.
Pirone had been scheduled to appear in Alameda County Superior Court this week but he couldn't attend because he's in Afghanistan so his case was postponed until next year, when he's scheduled to return to the U.S.
Grant, 22, of Hayward, was shot and killed by former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2009, after Mehserle, Pirone and other officers responded to reports that there was a fight on a BART train.
Mehserle was charged with murder but he was only convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
Pirone wasn't charged in connection with the incident but John Burris, an Oakland attorney who represented Grant's family in a wrongful death lawsuit, alleged that Pirone escalated the situation at the Fruitvale station.
Pirone was the first officer to arrive at the station's platform and video recordings showed him acting aggressively.
Pirone is in the midst of an arbitration hearing in which he is seeking to get his job back at BART and Rapoport alleged that the criminal charges against him are an attempt by BART to gain "an advantage" in the arbitration process.
BART officials didn't respond to a request for a comment today.
Rapoport said an evidentiary hearing in the arbitration matter concluded on Wednesday and will be followed by about six months of legal briefs. He said he expects a ruling late this year or early next year.
Rapoport noted that Marysol Domenici, another BART police officer who was fired for her role in the Grant incident, was victorious at the end of her arbitration process in December 2010 and has been back at the transit agency for more than two years now.
Rapoport previously said he thinks the incident that led to Grant's death has been "politicized" and he believes Pirone will win his arbitration case.