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Lawyer in Calif. BART shooting may back out of deal

The lawyer of a man fatally shot by a transit officer might pull out of the settlement

Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — The family attorney of a man fatally shot by a Northern California transit officer threatened Friday to pull out of a recent wrongful death settlement and alleged the transit agency had breached confidentiality.

Oscar Grant's attorney, John Burris, accused the Bay Area Rapid Transit of leaking details about the settlement talks to a San Francisco Bay area television station.

Last week, Sophina Mesa, the mother of Grant's 5-year-old daughter, settled for $1.5 million with BART as part of a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the agency and several employees.

Grant, 22, was shot on a BART train platform in Oakland on New Year's Day 2009. Johannes Mehserle, 28, a one-time BART police officer, has pleaded not guilty to murder.

A KTVU-TV report Thursday detailed settlement negotiations between Burris and BART.

"For the information to come out in this case it seems to me that it's unethical and a violation of the rules of conduct and there must be an ulterior motive for it," Burris said.

Burris told The Associated Press on Friday that a final settlement agreement has not been signed.

Dale Allen, an attorney representing BART, said Friday that he did not know who provided KTVU with the information and declined to comment about the report.

Allen said Burris has signed a stipulation of dismissal accepting the settlement on behalf of Grant's daughter "and we fully intend to enforce the terms of the settlement if he attempts to withdraw."

The shooting was video-recorded by several bystanders and widely viewed on the Internet. The videos sparked violent protests and were used as evidence in a preliminary hearing last spring. An Alameda County judge moved Mehserle's trial to Los Angeles because of safety concerns and pretrial publicity.

Mehserle's lawyer has said that Mehserle meant to use his Taser instead of his handgun. Mehserle's next court date is Feb. 19.

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