Judge postpones Mehserle bail hearing

January 21, 2009 3:58:43 PM PST
A judge postponed a bail hearing today for former Bay Area Rapid Transit police Officer Johannes Mehserle on charges that he murdered Oscar Grant III, apparently because Mehserle is considering changing attorneys.

Mehserle, 27, is being held without bail on charges that he shot Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, in the back while Grant was lying face down on the ground at the Fruitvale station platform in Oakland early New Year's Day when police responded to reports that there had been a fight on a train.

Mehserle, who resigned the week after the shooting incident, which provoked widespread outrage and protests, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last Thursday and was scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court on Jan. 26 for a defense motion asking that he be granted bail.

But Judge Morris Jacobson today delayed the hearing for four days, until Jan. 30.

After a brief hearing, he summoned a reporter to his bench to make sure that the news media and the public know about the change in dates.

Mehserle didn't appear in court today because his attorney, Christopher Miller, of Sacramento, waived his right to appear.

Miller and prosecutor John Creighton attended the hearing, but appearing alongside Miller was Pleasant Hill attorney Michael Rains, who has defended many police officers accused of wrongdoing and also represents former San Francisco Giants baseball star Barry Bonds.

Miller and Rains were tight-lipped after the short hearing. Asked if he is going to take over Mehserle's case, Rains said he's not officially in the case for now. He said Jacobson will issue an order later.

Rains knows the main Alameda County courthouse well because he represented former Oakland police Officer Clarence "Chuck" Mabanag in two lengthy trials in 2002 to 2003 and 2004 to 2005.

Mabanag was one of three former officers known as "The Riders" who were accused of beating and framing suspected drug dealers in West Oakland in the summer of 2000.

The three officers weren't convicted of any charges in their closely watched trials.

Jurors acquitted Mabanag of some charges and deadlocked on others.

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office decided in June 2005 not to prosecute Mabanag and colleague Jude Siapno a third time.

The third officer in the case, Matthew Hornung, was acquitted of all the charges against him during the two trials.

Rains' colleague, Harry Stern, appeared in court with him today.

Stern also has represented many police officers, including former Berkeley police Sgt. Cary Kent, who was convicted in 2006 of three felony counts of grand theft and drug possession.

Kent was placed on five years' probation, including one year in an electronic home detention program.