A Southern California judge handed down the minimum sentence possible for former BART officer Johannes Mehserle in the shooting death of Oscar Grant. Mehserle was told in court he will serve two years in prison for involuntary manslaughter. Before the sentencing hearing began, Mehserle was facing up to 14 years in prison.
Once the sentence was read, it was immediately met with outrage by Grant's family in the courtroom. "He got nothing! He got nothing," Grant's mother Wanda Johnson yelled as she burst into the hallway.
Grant's uncle Bobby Cephus Johnson said after the sentencing that he believes we have a racist criminal justice system. He added, "I have no power over what people feel their matter of expression should be."
Similar outrage quickly spilled on to the streets of Oakland, where dozens of Grant's friend and supporters had gathered outside city hall. Many in the group broke into tears when they heard the amount of time Mehserle would serve in jail.
Superior Court Judge Robert Perry also gave the defendant credit for time served, which means Mehserle could be a free man by next summer. Mehserle was given credit for 146 days in prison and he will most likely serve half of the two year sentence (365 days). That leaves 219 days remaining, which is seven months.
One of the reasons for the lesser time, was that the judge dismissed a gun enhancement charge, which could have added 10 years of prison time. Perry said he threw it out because there was overwhelming evidence that the shooting was an accident.
"I did the best I could with this case," Perry said during his ruling, adding that "my decisions today will not be well-received by many people. I'm sorry for that."
He also said although Mehserle showed "tons" of remorse for killing Grant, he would still have to be held accountable because a "young man needlessly died."
Oakland police said they were prepared in case there was a replay of the rioting in Oakland that followed the shooting on New Year's Day 2009.
Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts told reporters, "This is not my first rodeo" when asked if he felt prepared for possible violence on the streets of his city Friday night.