BART Shooting Ralliers Settle False Arrest Suit
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - The 150 protesters arrested at a rally for the young black man fatally shot by a Bay Area transit cop will see those records expunged in a $1 million settlement approved by a federal judge.
Hundreds had gathered on Nov. 5, 2010, to protest the two-year sentence handed down to Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle for involuntary manslaughter.
It had been nearly two years since Mehserle took the life of 22-year-old Oscar Grant on New Year's Day 2009 at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, Calif. Mehserle claimed that he meant to use his Taser on the handcuffed Grant but fired his pistol instead.
Police were on high alert after the sentencing, having seen the riot that erupted after Mehserle's conviction a year earlier.
Daniel Spalding and three other participants of the 2010 rally ultimately sued on behalf of the approximately 150 people who were allegedly unlawfully arrested and booked into jail by Oakland Police, Alameda County Sheriff's Department and others.
"The 150 class members were never ordered to disperse or allowed the opportunity to disperse, and there was no probable cause or legal basis to arrest them," the complain stated. "Oakland and Alameda County proceeded to hold the class for an excessive period of time in buses and vans, and then imprisoned them all in the Alameda County Jail. The plaintiffs were incarcerated overnight, for up to 24 hours, in overcrowded holding cells without cots or even room to lie on the floor, and subjected to other unreasonable conditions or confinement, None of the class members were ever charged."
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson approved the settlement that gives the defendants 15 days to pay class counsel $1.025 million "for distribution to class members who submitted approved claims, class representatives, and class counsel, as provided in the agreement."
The settlement also orders that the Oakland Police Department and any other law enforcement agency that participated in the arrests seal and destroy all arrest records in relation to the protest because "these individuals are factually innocent of all charges for which they were arrested, and that these individuals are thereby exonerated."
Judge Thelton ordered Oakland Police and its attorneys to meet with representatives of the San Francisco Bay Area's chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU of Northern California before making any changes to their crowd control policy, training bulletin or training outlines. The Alameda County Sheriff's Office additionally will have to adopt new policies and procedures that will speed up the citation and release process for those taken into custody during a mass arrest.
The court will have jurisdiction of this settlement to solve any disputes for four years. Rachel Lederman of Lederman & Beach in San Francisco, Calif., is listed as the lead attorney for the plaintiffs. Lead attorney for the defendants is Christopher Andrew Kae of Etna, Calif.
Other named plaintiffs were Katherine Loncke, Danielle Lopez Green and Adrian Drummond-Cole. The defendants included the city of Oakland, Alameda County, Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts, Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern.