Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Racial Cowardice From The Obama Administration In Oakland Shooting Case

Remember when Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder decided to spit in the soup of a supposed 'post-racial' presidency and call America a nation of cowards on race?

The Obama Administration's reaction to the Johannes Mehserle case is a superb example that he might just have been on to something.

Former Oakland transit cop Johannes Mehserle made two huge mistakes. The first one happened back on New Year's Eve, 2009 when he accidentally grabbed what he thought was his taser to subdue Oscar Grant and ended up shooting him with his pistol instead.

His second mistake was being a white cop in Oakland in the age of Obama accused of shooting a black man.

Oscar Grant was coming home on the BART after celebrating the New Year and participated in a violent altercation at the West Oakland BART Station involving a dozen people who were described as being violent and "hammered and stoned" by the BART personnel who called for the police.

Grant and several other men suspected of fighting were taken off the train and detained on the platform. Apparently the other passengers on the train contributed to the chaotic atmosphere, screaming and cursing at the cops as they attempted to subdue Grant and the others.

Grant at that point had not been handcuffed yet, nor had he been searched for weapons. When Mehserle and the back up officers arrived, one of the original cops on the scene, Officer Tony Pirone told Mehserle to place Grant under arrest.

According to Pirone, Grant had already assaulted him by trying to knee him in the groin and had assaulted another Transit cop, Marysol Dominici, hitting her arm when she tried to handcuff one of Grant's friends.Other passengers who were part of the angry crowd on the train claim that Pirone was the aggressor.

Once Grant found out he was going to be arrested,he began violently resisting being cuffed. Grant was a two time loser, once for drug dealing and a second time for fleeing a traffic stop while armed with a loaded pistol and resisting arrest. Given California's Three Strike law, another felony bust would have put Grant away for life. So he had a great deal of motivation to be resisting arrest.

After the officers were unable to subdue him, Mehserle told Pirone "I can't get his arms, he keeps going for his waistband, I'm going to tase him."

Other witnesses at the scene admitted hearing Mehserle say he was going to taser Grant. Instead, he pulled out his service revolver and shot him, fatally.

The entire scene, as is usual these days, was captured on video and both the videos and witnesses say Mehserle reacted with shock, said "Oh my god!" several times after the shooting, and put his hands to his head.

Mehserle's defense was that he mistook his revolver for the gun-shaped taser.

Grant's family immediately sued the city of Oakland for $50 million. One case was later settled by BART with the mother of Grant's daughter for $1.5 million. Other members of the family still have suits pending.

It's worth mentioning that both Pirone and Dominici, the other transit police who accused Grant of assault on an officer were almost immediately fired from the police department and Transit Police Chief Gary Gee either was forced out by the city or retired, depending on who's talking.

Needless to say the case caused so much hostility and outrage in Oakland that the trial was moved to Los Angeles. The Oakland prosecutor, District Attorney Tom Orloff filed a complaint for murder, which some might say was more of a political decision than a legal one.

Los Angeles County Judge Robert J. Perry saw through this rather quickly, and instructed the jury that in their deliberations, they had four options; acquittal, second-degree murder (15 to life), voluntary manslaughter (3 to 11 ), or involuntary manslaughter (2 or 4 years).

The jury found Johannes Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but also came up with an 'enhancement' sentence for using a gun that could add three to ten years to his prison sentence, make him ineligible for probation, and force him to serve 85 percent of his sentence.

This kind of sentence for a peace officer in these kind of circumstances is almost unprecedented.

However, that wasn't really sufficient either for the folks back in Oakland (who used it as an excuse for an orgy of rioting and looting) or for Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder.

In the midst of an already tense situation, Holder made headlines saying that the Justice Department is 'reviewing the case' to see whether Federal prosecution of Mehserle is warranted in addition to what he's already been sentenced to.

According to the Obama Justice Department, the facts and evidence were not enough to prosecute the New Black Panthers in a voter intimidation case the government had already won. And the Justice Department is still stonewalling and refusing to honor subpoenas from the Civil Rights commission on the matter.

But when there's a white policeman found guilty of something like involuntary manslaughter, Eric Holder says he needs to carefully 'review' this case, pouring gasoline on an already volatile situation.

In spite of all the nonsense the American people were fed about 'the post racial presidency' the Obama Administration has been anything but that. The president seems to have almost a fetish to insert himself and his administration into virtually any racially-charged situation. Whether it's a simple disorderly conduct bust, hard core voter intimidation or a tragic mistake like this, Obama seems to have an irresistible urge to get involved and exacerbate it.

Holder was right. We are cowards on race. But in an entirely different context than the one he used.

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