Mehserle’s Sentence in Perspective

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/smi23le/4746316527/">smi23le</a>/Flickr

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Johannes Mehserle, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old African-American man on January 1, 2009, was released today. Mehserle shot Grant at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California. Bystanders videotaped the incident on their cellphones. The video of Mehserle shooting Grant, who was restrained and laying facedown on the BART platform, sparked an outcry that spread far beyond the Bay Area. 

A jury found Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter and he served nearly two years behind bars, spending time in both jail and prison. A family spokesperson said of Mehserle’s release, “We knew it was coming one day. But as it approached, there were more sleepless nights.” 
To many, Mehserle’s brief period behind bars solidifies the sense that the criminal justice system will never move beyond its inherent bias.

For perspective, five non-violent offenses that resulted in a similar amount of time behind bars:

  1. Gun possession, 20 months behind bars:
    Police arrested Plaxico Burress, former New York Giants wide receiver and Super Bowl champion, on gun possession charges after the star shot himself at a New York City club.
     
  2. Tax evasion, more than three years of prison time:
    Richard Hatch, former reality star and Survivor winner, was convicted of the charges after he failed to pay taxes on the $1 million prize money he won from the popular CBS show.
     
  3. Gun possession, three years in prison:
    New York City police officers arrested Prodigy, rapper and member of the hip-hop group Mobb Deep, after finding a gun hidden in his car. 
     
  4. Growing medical marijuana, minimum 10 years in federal prison:
    A jury found Eddy Lepp, medical marijuana grower, guilty of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute after federal agents confiscated thousands of marijuana plants from his farm.
     
  5. Tax evasion, three year prison sentence:
    A jury convicted actor Wesley Snipes of the charges after he avoided paying income taxes for seven years.

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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