LOS ANGELES – A judge denied bail Friday for a white former transit officer sentenced to two years in prison for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in Oakland last year.
Johannes Mehserle, 28, sought to be released pending an appeal of his involuntary manslaughter conviction.
Still, the ruling by Superior Court Judge Robert Perry likely won't keep Mehserle from being freed before his appeal is heard, since his credit for time already served could make him eligible for release in about seven months.
Defense attorney Michael Rains said Mehserle was disappointed with the judge's decision and an appeal will be filed next week.
"He was resigned to the fact that he's going to serve out the rest of his sentence in custody somewhere," Rains said. "He has been grateful, and remains grateful that we came to Los Angeles for this case, that we came to Judge Perry's court for this case and that he feels he got a fair trial."
Mehserle was sentenced Nov. 5 in the New Year's Day 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant, 22, during a disturbance on a Bay Area Rapid Transit platform in Oakland. A jury convicted him in July of involuntary manslaughter and he received the minimum sentence after facing a possible maximum term of 14 years in prison.
Mehserle testified during the trial that he thought Grant had a weapon and decided to shock him with his stun gun but instead pulled his .40-caliber handgun. Grant was unarmed and face-down when he was shot.
The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of intense media coverage and racial tensions.
Mehserle wore an orange jail jumpsuit and was handcuffed as he was led into court Friday. Some members of Grant's family were in the courtroom, as were Mehserle's mother and father.
Mehserle winked at his parents as he was escorted away by deputies after the hearing.
Perry agreed with Rains that if Mehserle was released he wouldn't be a flight risk nor would he be a threat to the public. However, Perry wasn't persuaded by the defense argument that there were substantial issues with the case that could lead to a reversal of the conviction on appeal.
"The overriding issue in this case was that the defendant acted in a grossly negligent manner," Perry said. "The verdict is fully supported by the evidence and is unlikely to be disturbed on appeal."
Rains said Mehserle wants to fight his conviction because he fears other police officers facing similar circumstances might meet the same fate.
"It may send a signal to other district attorneys in this county or in this state that it's OK to prosecute a police officer for making this kind of mistake," Rains said.