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Lawsuit Filed Over Arrests Following Mehserle Verdict Protests

OAKLAND (CBS SF) - A class action lawsuit was filed against the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office Monday alleging that they violated the rights of 150 people who were arrested after former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was sentenced last Nov. 5.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court only hours after Mesherle, 29, was released from the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail about 12:30 a.m. Monday.

KCBS' Bob Melrose Reports:

Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man who was unarmed, after Mehserle and other officers responded to reports that there was a fight on a train.

Mehserle admitted in a highly publicized trial last year that he shot and killed Grant but claimed he had meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant and fired his service gun by mistake.

Alameda County prosecutors sought to have Mehserle convicted of murder, but in a verdict on July 8 jurors only convicted him of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

On Nov. 5, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry sentenced Mehserle to two years. Mehserle was released from custody today because he was given credit for time he served in jail before and after his conviction.

At a news conference at 14th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland today, Michael Flynn of the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild alleged that Oakland police violated their crowd control policy by engaging in the mass arrest of 150 demonstrators at a protest the night of Nov. 5, after Mehserle was sentenced.

Flynn said officers surrounded the protesters, who were upset at the short sentence that Mehserle received, and refused to give them an opportunity to leave.

Rachel Lederman, another attorney with the guild, said Oakland police and Alameda County sheriff's deputies detained the protesters for up to 28 hours and refused to let them use the bathroom or eat during much of that time.

None of the people arrested were charged with committing a crime, she said.

Lederman said the lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages for the protesters who were arrested, as well as an injunction that would force the Oakland Police Department to comply with its crowd control policies.

Oakland City Attorney spokesman Alex Katz said he can't comment on the lawsuit because his office hasn't seen it yet.

Alameda County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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