2011-12-02 "Johannes Mehserle, 4 other BART officers cleared; Case alleging excessive force by 5 officers was unrelated to Grant killing" by Bob Egelko from "San Francisco Chronicle"
(12-02) 10:55 PST SAN FRANCISCO — (12-02) 10:55 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal court jury on Thursday cleared five BART police officers, including Johannes Mehserle, of using excessive force against a passenger who was thrown to the ground and injured after an angry confrontation at an Oakland transit station in November 2008.
Kenneth Carrethers, 43, of Oakland accused the officers of beating him, then hog-tying him and taking him to jail on bogus charges in retaliation for his profanity-laced tirade against the police for failing to prevent burglaries of his car in the Coliseum Station parking lot.
The officers said they held and subdued Carrethers after he approached one of them from behind with his fists clenched and raised.
After about five hours of deliberations, the seven-member jury found unanimously that Carrethers had failed to prove the officers used excessive force or punished him for exercising his right of free speech.
The incident occurred less than seven weeks before Mehserle fatally shot Oscar Grant of Hayward, who was lying facedown on the platform at BART's Fruitvale Station in Oakland after a disturbance on a train.
Mehserle, who said he thought he was firing his Taser stun gun instead of his pistol, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served about half of a two-year prison sentence. He quit the BART force six days after the shooting.
Lawyers were not allowed to mention Grant's case in the trial of Carrethers' civil suit.
No video presented -
Carrethers' attorney, Christopher Dolan, said Thursday that a crucial difference between the two cases was video evidence - jurors in the Grant case saw other passengers' cell-phone videos of the shooting, but neither side in Carrethers' case offered any evidence from bystanders, and BART did not preserve videos from a camera at the station.
"Had a video been there (for Carrethers), justice would have been served," Dolan told reporters.
Mehserle testified that he saw no need to obtain videos or contact passers-by because the officers and two station agents all agreed on what had happened. BART now requires its officers to get videos from station cameras after such incidents, said Dale Allen, the lawyer for BART and the five officers.
"This case emphasized the need to change procedures in the department," Allen said.
Carrethers was returning from his job at a San Francisco hotel on the night of Nov. 15, 2008, when he saw a group of officers in the Coliseum Station and started telling another passenger how lazy and worthless they were.
Mehserle spoke up - telling him to mind his own business, according to Carrethers, or trying to calm him down, according to Mehserle. Carrethers then cursed at the officers and said he would fight them if they were civilians.
2 versions of incident -
After a confrontation with another officer, Frederick Guanzon, outside the fare gates, Carrethers said he was walking away when Mehserle grabbed him from behind and swept his legs from under him.
The other officers then piled on and beat and kicked him, he said.
But Mehserle, the other officers and a station agent said Carrethers was following Guanzon from behind and about to hit him when Mehserle intervened. They denied punching or kicking Carrethers and said he was kicking and flailing, which he denied.
The officers also disputed Carrethers' allegation that they hog-tied Carrethers, linking his cuffed wrists and ankles behind him, and carried him to the police car by the fastening strap.
Allen, their lawyer, noted that Carrethers had no injuries or marks on his wrists, evidence supporting the officers' testimony that they lifted him from below.
Carrethers was treated for facial bruises and jailed for two days on suspicion of assault and resisting arrest, but the charges were dismissed.