Additional claims likely in Oscar Grant slaying

The $25 million wrongful-death case that the family of Oscar Grant is preparing against BART over his slaying by a transit agency police officer is about to get even bigger.

John Burris, the attorney for Grant’s family, tells us he plans to file additional claims this week against BART on behalf of “four to six” people who were detained early New Year’s Day at Fruitvale Station in Oakland as police investigated reports of a fight on a train. It was during that police response that the unarmed Grant was shot to death by former Officer Johannes Mehserle. “Anyone who was handcuffed and taken to jail and detained for any period of time had their civil rights violated,” Burris said. “And I intend to file a claim on that.” He declined to say how much money he would be seeking for his clients.
Burris also said he sent a letter last week to Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, urging that Officer Tony Pirone, whose actions he contends precipitated the deadly confrontation, join Mehserle in facing criminal charges. Mehserle, who shot Grant, is accused of murder.
Pirone “slugged Oscar – punched him a couple of times, threw him to the ground and got on his left shoulder and pinned him down (before) Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot him,” Burris said.
Mehserle’s defense attorney, Michael Rains, says police were trying to arrest Grant for resisting an officer, and quoted other officers as saying Grant was uncooperative and cursing police.
Pirone’s lawyer, Bill Rapoport, said Sunday that his client was “defending himself and exercising only a reasonable amount of force necessary to neutralize the threat by Grant.”
As for Grant’s attorney bringing a civil case against Pirone and his fellow cops, Rapoport said, “that’s John Burris – he can name everyone in the world. It doesn’t have any basis in reality.”
Palace protection: University of California President Mark Yudof and his wife have gotten quite a spirited welcome to their new East Bay home.
After choosing not to live in the 13,000-square-foot Blake House – the university-owned president’s mansion in nearby Kensington that needs some $9 million in repairs – the Yudofs moved into a home half its size in the Oakland Hills.
No sooner did they settle into the $11,360-a-month rental, on UC’s dime, then the UC Berkeley police and an independent security consultant decided the place wasn’t safe enough. They recommended that a $92,000 surveillance system be installed.
Given UC’s budget problems, the plan was shelved.
That is, until the homes of several Berkeley faculty members and administrators were vandalized over the summer, and a UC Santa Cruz faculty member’s house was firebombed. Police suspect radical animal-rights activists angered over research being conducted by the faculty members.
At the same time, Yudof’s Oakland home became the target of a series of protests by UC custodians, gardeners and other workers unhappy over their wages.
In one instance, more than 30 people showed up at the couple’s front door while the Yudofs were away, took pictures of the interior furnishings through a window and posted them on the Internet.
So, this past fall, security consultants were once again brought in to evaluate the rental – only this time, they came up with a cheaper, $21,000 security system that also requires a $65-a-month monitoring fee.
To ensure the system works properly, however, the Yudofs were told they would have to keep all the doors and windows shut at night. Given that the temperature often soared in the upstairs master bedroom during the summer and fall, the Yudofs were accustomed to keeping the doors and windows open.
Upshot: Officials installed $13,000 in air conditioning – partly to cool a newly leased office (actually an in-law unit) for the house manager, who will direct all social functions hosted by the president.
UC is paying an extra $2,650 a month to lease the manager’s office, so the landlord agreed to toss in a monthly $775 rent credit to help pay for the air conditioning.
Such a deal.
Ed sighting: Yes, that was disgraced ex-San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew back in court the other day – small claims court, that is – fighting with his onetime attorney Bill Fazio over $3,150 in legal fees while he awaits what promises to be a long prison sentence.
Fazio had billed Jew $65,000 for defending him against charges that he had lied about his San Francisco residency – one of two cases that the rookie supervisor was fighting at the time. He later pleaded guilty to the state charge, as well as federal corruption charges for allegedly accepting $80,000 in bribes.
Jew eventually filed a complaint with the State Bar, saying Fazio had overcharged him. An arbitrator upheld Fazio’s claim – except for the $3,150 in court filing fees that that the bar officer said Fazio should have paid.
Now Fazio is challenging that finding in small claims court, where he and his former client squared off before a judge last week. A ruling isn’t expected for a few weeks.
In the meantime, Jew’s current attorney, Stuart Hanlon, tells us his client won’t be heading off to prison for at least another couple of months. Seems his probation officer had a family crisis and won’t have a report ready for the sentencing judge until early April.
Moving Ma: Keep an eye on state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. When the Democrat isn’t in Sacramento or her home district in San Francisco, she’s been crisscrossing the state, hitting every pancake breakfast under the sun.
Most recently, Ma signed up San Francisco political consultant Alex Tourk to run her PR operation.
Our bet: She’s looking to be the next Assembly speaker – and beyond.
EXTRA! Catch our new blog at www.sfgate.com/matierandross.

Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier

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