Mehserle's father barred from hearing on BART scuffle

The father of Johannes Mehserle, the former BART officer who fatally shot Oscar Grant and is currently on trial for a separate case of alleged police misconduct, has been banned from attending his son’s latest legal hearings.

Todd Mehserle was barred from the U.S. District Court in San Francisco after he took a photograph of Cephus Johnson — Grant’s uncle — in the court hallway Wednesday, according to lawyers in the case. Taking photos is forbidden in the federal courthouse.

Johnson, whose nickname is Uncle Bobby, said Todd Mehserle approached him in the hallway during a break in the civil trial in which the younger Mehserle is being accused by Oakland resident Kenneth Carrethers of using excessive force in a November 2008 incident.

The elder Mehserle said, “Smile, Bobby!” and “Have a good Thanksgiving,” in a very sarcastic, abrasive tone, Johnson said.

When Johnson informed Judge Edward Chen of the interaction, the judge ordered that Todd Mehserle be removed for the remainder of the trial.

The younger Mehserle is one of five BART police officers being sued by Carrethers, who is seeking damages.

Carrethers alleges that the officers used excessive force while detaining him during an altercation in 2008 — about six weeks before Mehserle shot and killed an unarmed Grant at the Fruitvale BART station. Mehserle served half of a two-year jail sentence after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Grant’s death.  

In the Carrethers case, Mehserle is accused of leg-sweeping him and tackling him to the ground. Carrethers said the action was unlawful, while Mehserle has said that he was protecting fellow Officer Frederick Guanzon from an impending assault by Carrethers.

Johnson, along with his wife, Beatrice X, has been attending the civil trial, which began last week. He said his encounter with Todd Mehserle in the courtroom hallway was unexpected and unnerving.

“This was a man whose family member killed a member of my family,” Johnson said. “Beyond the fact that taking photos is illegal, it was extremely inappropriate for him to come up and speak to me in that manner.”

Todd Mehserle has been a vocal supporter of his son. Before his son’s sentencing last year, he attached a 60-foot-tall sign to a sailboat mast outside of AT&T Park reading “Free Johannes Mehserle.”

Dale Allen, the attorney representing the BART officers, said Todd Mehserle made a simple mistake by taking the photograph in the hallway. He downplayed the significance of Todd Mehserle’s being barred, saying that it was just a necessary procedural move.

Todd Mehserle could not be immediately reached for comment Monday.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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