One of Mehserle’s accomplices gets her job back

Here’s the latest episode in the never ending saga of the 2009 BART police shooting. Marysol Domenici, one of the officers present the night of the shooting, was given her job back last Friday. Domenici is best known for blaming Oscar Grant for his own death, testifying in court that “If they [Grant and his friends] would have followed orders, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Domenici was fired earlier this year at the recommendation of Meyers Nave, a private law firm hired to conduct an internal affairs investigation, for allegedly providing false testimony at a preliminary hearing for Johannes Mehserle, the officer responsible for murdering Grant. She has been reinstated because an arbitrator, William Riker, found that these allegations were spurious.

Now, I can’t comment on any of Meyers Nave’s allegations against Domenici or the arbiter’s response because this information has been kept secret from the public. I do know, however, that Domenici lied during Mehserle’s preliminary hearing. Allow me to give one example.

During prosecuting attorney David Stein’s cross-examination of Domenici, the officer claimed that during the night of the shooting, the scene was a “near riot” and that “30-40” (and later, “40-50”) people were rushing off a train in her general direction while she attempted to get to her partner Anthony Pirone who was detaining Oscar Grant and his friends. She also claimed that some of these people were intoxicated and taunted her by “singing some cop song that just came out” (the horror!).

The point of her testimony is fairly obvious: if the BART station was in a state of “near riot” as Domenici claimed, it could serve as a mitigating factor when assessing Mehserle’s guilt.

The problem is that the testimony was an egregious lie. When Stein played a surveillance video of the BART platform, it failed to support Domenici’s testimony. When she was unable to identify the “30-40” people rushing off the train, Domenici attempted to claim that she had never said there were thirty to forty people, though she eventually admitted that she had. Despite the fact that the video proved her wrong, she continued to insist that people exited the train.

Below I’ve included a lengthy excerpt of the transcript of the hearing which covers the testimony I just described. You can see the transcript here. Domenici’s testimony is in volume 4, part 1 of the transcript (the first document listed on the page).

Q. Now, you’ve described a crowd. You said it was a near riot. When I say or refer to a crowd, I often think of maybe 20, 30, 40, 50 people or more. When you say crowd, how many people are you referring to?

A. There was hundreds of people on that train.

Q. How many people were on the platform?

MR. RAINS: Objection. Vague as to time.

THE COURT: Sustained.

BY MR. STEIN:

Q. When you were referring to the crowd that kept coming at you, you weren’t referring to the people on the train, were you?

A. Yeah. On the train and around us, yes.

Q. So when you said the crowd kept coming at us, you were referring to people who were on the train or on the platform?

A. People that were on the train coming off the train towards our direction.

Q. How many people are we talking about?

A. If I had to estimate, I would probably say a group like we have here.

Q. Like we have where?

A. In the courtroom.

Q. As many people in the courtroom?

A. 30, 30-40 people, yes.

Q. So there were 30 to 40 people on the platform advancing in your direction?

A. In the area where we were at.

….

Q. Now, when you arrived on the platform, you described for us you had to run a distance from when you first came up the stairs, set foot on the platform, you had to run a distance to get to Officer Pirone and the people he was with, true?

A. Yes.

Q. That distance was about, what would you say? The length of a football field?

A. Probably twice the size of this room lengthwise.

Q. So what is it about? I think that’s — is that —

MR. RAINS: 41 feet double.

MR. STEIN: A little under a hundred feet.

Q. And you said that when you first got up there, you noticed the number of people on that train and that their demeanor, their attitude, was different?

A. Yes.

Q. And as you ran, and you were afraid that someone was going to throw something at you, true?

A. Yes.

Q. Tell me, when you were going — did you have to kind of make your way around these people in order to get to where Officer Pirone was?

A. As I’m running, they’re coming off. So I had to semi-veer a little bit.

Q. And so you did have to — did you have to ask anybody to move out of your way or did you run into anybody?

A. If people were in my way, they saw me coming and they moved.

Q. Were they in your way?

A. No.

Q. So how did you get around them? You just went to one side?

A. No. If this is the train here, this wood section here, and the people start coming off, I’m running and I did not run real close to the train because of these people. So I’m running this way. And then when they start coming off, because they don’t see me, the people that are closest to where the incident was happening, they didn’t see me coming. So they were already this way and I just kind of veered over.

Q. How close did they get to you?

A. Pretty close. From here to this envelope right here.

Q. About 3 feet?

A. Yeah.

Q. And so were they threatening you as you ran?

A. They were just saying, “Ooh, there’s a female BART police. They’re security guards.” And they just kept singing some cop song that just came out.

Q. And how did that make you feel?

A. The fact that they were just coming off and saying blatant things and being the time of year, New year’s Eve, I knew they were intoxicated.

Q. You knew by looking at them as you ran by them they were intoxicated?

A. They were acting, yes.

Q. How many people are we talking about?

A. Several people that were coming off the train.

Q. Again, are we talking 20, 30, 40?

A. Well, if you put them all together, yeah, 40-50.

Q. And describe the manner in which you ran to Officer Pirone. Were you running as fast as you could? Was it a jog? How were you running?

A. I was running pretty fast.

Q. And did you stop?

A. No. I stopped when I got to Officer Pirone.

Q. And that’s when Officer Pirone told you or asked you, I should say, to stop and watch these guys?

A. Yes.

MR. STEIN: Your Honor, I have a CD which contains a video tape. I’d like to play it to see if Officer Domenici recognized herself in it.

THE COURT: All right. That’s marked as what?

MR. STEIN: it’s marked as 27A.

THE COURT: All right.

BY MR. STEIN:

Q. Now, Officer Domenici, this purports to be a surveillance tape, and I want to know if you recognize yourself running down that platform towards Officer Pirone. I’m going to start this as frame 13200.

Can you see the monitor where you’re at.

A. Which one do you want me to focus on.

Q. But you can see the monitor?

A. Yes.

THE COURT: And if you can’t, you can get up and take a look at it.

BY MR. STEIN:

Q. Can you see that frame? It’s in the upper left hand frame, the biggest one. This one here. The bottom says A21FR. I’m going to play it here and I’m going to ask if you recognize yourself running down the platform towards Pirone.

(Video played.)

A. Yeah, that’s me running.

Q. And I’m going to stop at 14290. That’s the surveillance camera capturing you running from one end of the platform to Officer Pirone; is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. Isn’t it true that there’s not a soul on that platform as you’re running down?

A. When you see me get on that platform, did you see that group of people that came off the train right — if you rewind it, you can see that. That’s what I remember seeing.

Q. Oh, okay. So you saw the crowds of people that you described earlier., the 30 or 40 people that you had to run around. You saw them on video?

A. Right there, yes.

Q. Let me play it again. And you tell me where to stop.

A. You see them coming off.

Q. I’m going to start at 13200 again, and you can tell me to stop when you see the 30 or 40 people.

A. There was a group of people.

THE COURT: Hold on. Let him finish his question and then you can answer.

BY MR. STEIN:

Q. When you see the 30 or 40 people that came off the train — just so we’re clear, I’m talking about that people you had to run around that you just described.

MR. RAINS: Well, that misstates her testimony. She said she veered to the right.

THE COURT: To whatever extent, let’s just see it, Mr. Stein.

BY MR. STEIN:

Q. Okay, I’m at 13200. And now, officer, if you can just tell me to stop when you see the 30 or 40 people you referred to. And you can see it from where you’re at, right?

A. Yes.

Q. I’m going to hit play now.

(Video played.)

A. Right there. When you go back you see.

Q. I’ve stopped it right where you told me. In this image, you asked me to stop. I stopped it at frame 13779. If you can hang on just a second.

In this frame 13779, you see the 30 or 40 people who came off the train?

A. If you go back a little, you see people coming off. And then back in the background where it’s dark, there’s people coming off.

Q. I can go frame by frame. You tell me when you see it.

(Video played.)

A. Right there. You see bodies coming out right there.

Q. Okay. This is frame 13746. And in this frame you see 30 or 40 people who’ve come off the train?

A. I said a group of people.

Q. No, no, no. You said 30 or 40. Do you want to change your testimony?

A. You said 30 or 40, and I said a group of people.

Q. No. You said about 30 or 40, did you not?

MR. RAINS: I object. That misstates her testimony.

THE COURT: Hold On. Overruled.

BY MR. STEIN:

Q. Did you not say 30 or 40 people?

A. I said a group of people. You wanted a number and I said a group of people.

Q. Did you not say earlier that it was about 30 or 40 people?

A. I said a group of people.

Q. That’s not my question. Did you or did you not say that it was about 30 or 40 people who came off the train as you were running towards Officer Pirone?

A. You wanted an estimate, and I said, yes, 30 or 40 people.

Q. In this frame, do you see 30 or 40 people coming off the train?

A. They’re right there in the opening of the train door.

THE COURT: Hold on. Give the witness a pointer and let her go up and point where she sees those people. Why don’t you go point.

THE WITNESS: You can’t see it from there, sir. From the angle where I was running, you see the door. Think of a door frame, and I see people there.

THE COURT: Okay. All right. Next question.

BY MR. STEIN:

Q. Nobody came off the train, did they?

MR. RAINS: Objection. Argumentative.

THE COURT: Overruled.

Q. Did they?

A. People did come off the train.

Q. You have testified under oath that 30 or 40 people came off that train so you could make it appear that you and your fellow officers were in more danger than you actually were; isn’t that true?

A. People came off the train at this time, no, but I remember seeing people on that platform.

The story gets much better. The day after the shooting occurred, Domenici was given a paid vacation at her salary of over $95,000 per year.  This vacation ended up lasting 15 months meaning she was paid approximately $118,750 for doing no work.

Oh, and as part of the recent settlement, Domenici will be given full back-pay for the time she had been fired for. According to BART’s official statement, “BART believes we did the right thing in acting on the independent internal affairs investigation’s recommendation to terminate her employment,” but must abide by the arbiter’s decision to reinstate Domenici with back-pay.

Domenici’s partner, former BART officer Anthony Pirone, is also appealing BART’s decision to fire him. The appeal is currently pending. Pirone, you might remember, was responsible for calling Oscar Grant a racial slur (“bitch-ass nigger!”) moments before Mehserle shot him in the back. Like Domenici, Pirone also offered perjured testimony in an attempt to help get his buddy Mehserle (whom he claims to be like a “big brother” to) off the hook. For instance, Pirone claimed that Grant’s hands were not behind his back at the time of the shooting, but was forced to recant when video evidence proved him wrong.

Also like Domenici, Pirone was given a lengthy paid vacation for his participation in the murder before being fired. Pirone’s salary was over $100,000 per year.

If Pirone gets his job back, BART might as well re-hire Mehserle when he gets out of prison too.

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