Good morning, Netizens…
Everyone in the Spokane News Media yesterday were separately and yet together beating their spoons against the bars that, until then, had kept the news media from truly knowing what was going on in the Otto Zehm murder investigation. For nearly two years all anyone in Spokane knew for fact was that Otto Zehm died at the hands of the police, and that there were horrid pictures of Karl F. Thompson, Jr. wailing on Zehm with his nightstick while Zehm lay on the floor; meanwhile we have the squad of officers standing outside the Zip Trip in the aftermath.
Then last Friday Howard F. Delaney, City Attorney and Rocco N. Treppiedi, his Assistant, filed a response to a civil lawsuit brought against the City of Spokane by the Center for Justice, who represent Otto Zehm’s mother in a lawsuit claiming Zehm’s civil rights were violated because of the unlawful use of deadly force in apprehending him, and in the city’s subsequent actions to “falsely portray” Zehm as the aggressor in the encounter. (Portions from the Center for Justice’s website.)
Yesterday, a day that will live long past this time in Spokane history, Federal Prosecutor Jim McDevitt made public the grand jury indictment. In it two felony indictments against police officer Karl F. Thompson, Jr. were unfurled before the news media that on or about March 18, 2006, Karl F. Thompson not only beat Zehm viciously with his baton and tasering him, thus inflicting bodily injury to Zehm, and (count 2) that on March 27, 2006, Thompson then knowingly gave false testimony to investigators.
You can read the entire indictment here http://cforjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/indictment.pdf again, courtesy of the Center for Justice.
According to McDevitt’s statements at the press conference, the reference to giving false testimony refers to a lengthy interview of Thompson by an investigating Spokane Police Department detective whose name was not mentioned.
“What it looks like in hindsight,” the Center for Justice’s Breean Beggs said, when asked about it Monday, “is that the city knew this indictment was coming and did its best to get out a public relations story, trashing Otto, in the papers before readers knew about the indictment.”
As in nearly all cases of this stature, until Karl Thompson’s trial, there have been more unanswered questions to be resolved than there are hard answers. For example:
Given this was a sealed Grand Jury indictment, when were the Spokane City Attorneys told of its contents? Was it before what I believe to be the ill-fated, defamatory and false counter-suit against the Zehm family? It would seem so, given Rocco Treppiedi’s long and illuminating history of counter-suing anyone who files a claim against the City of Spokane, that seems credible enough. Do we know enough to prove it? No.
References are made to an investigator for the Spokane Police Department who interviewed Thompson which resulted in Count Two of the indictment. Of course, until Thompson’s trial, we may never know the named of this brave soul who probably sacrificed his career in the SPD in exchange for justice.
If the second count of the indictment is upheld by the court trial, yesterday why did Police Chief Ann Kirkpatrick wax euphorically about what a good cop Thompson has been for 37 years? Is she blithering daffy or simply trying to muster her troops under fire? Which is it?
If you have read the Center for Justice’s web link (above) then you know Karl F. Thompson, Jr. is facing some pretty serious jail time if convicted of the two felonies. Along the path between now and trial, it could make or break the careers of several local attorneys. There are a lot more questions than answers, but what remains to be seen is can the Spokane Police Department learn from their mistakes and restore the public’s trust?
That seems to be most of the issues that leap out at me.
Portions of this text and the picture of McDevitt all courtesy of The Center for Justice (http://cforjustice.org/) with our gracious thanks.