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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Carl Oreskovich

Thompson appeals Zehm conviction

Just as he promised last week after the sentencing, the attorney for convicted Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. filed notice today that he intends to appeal several aspects of the case.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Thompson last week to 51 months in federal prison for using excessive force and lying to investigators about his confrontation in 2006 with Otto Zehm. The mentally disabled janitor died two days after the struggle in which he suffered 13 baton strikes and several shocks with a Taser.

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich filed his notice today indicating that Thompson will challenge the decisions by Van Sickle to deny the motion for release pending appeal; his order refusing to dismiss the case; his refusal to order a new trial and several other rulings.

Thompson, 65, remains incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center – Sea Tac in Seattle, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

Read previous coverage here.

Oreskovich gets another week to file

   The defense attorneys of former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. have blamed a faulty email program for missing the deadline last Friday to file any objections to the pre-sentence report that could become the last major legal battle prior to sentencing.

   Thompson was convicted on Nov. 2, 2011, of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his confrontation on March 18, 2006, with Otto Zehm. The original sentencing date of Jan. 27 has been delayed as attorneys continue to argue every aspect of the case.

   But on Sept. 21, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle set a deadline of 4 p.m. on Oct. 5 for both sides to file objections to the pre-sentence report.

   Federal prosecutors missed the deadline by about four-and-a-half hours, but did file its request Friday night asking that the judge to sentence Thompson to 10 years.

   The Spokesman-Review sent an e-mail to Oreskovich at 6:10 p.m. Friday asking whether he would file any arguments. He finally responded at 1:03 a.m. Saturday, writing: “I filed objections many months ago.”

   But on Monday, Oreskovich wrote in a pleading, under the penalty of perjury, that his office has been experiencing problems with its Microsoft Outlook program and as a result didn’t receive a notice of the pending deadline.

   “During the late-evening hours of Friday … I was checking my email when I came across an email from Spokesman Review reporter Tom Clouse he sent at 6:15 p.m. inquiring whether I would be filing any objection to the Presentence Report,” Oreskovich wrote. “This was the first I was aware that anything was due that day.”

   He then asked for a week extension to file those documents.

   On Wednesday, Judge Van Sickle ruled that because Oreskovich “demonstrated good cause for the relief requested,” he extended the deadline until noon on Friday.  

Now on to the penalty phase …

For nearly a year, former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. has avoided sentencing on his federal convictions for using excessive force in the beating of Otto Zehm and then lying to investigators about it.

But with yesterday's refusal by U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle to throw out the convictions and order a new trial, as Thompson's defense team had urged, the long-delayed sentencing hearing soon will be rescheduled for a new legal clash: what is the appropriate punishment for a decorated police officer who continues to insist he did nothing wrong even though a jury ruled otherwise?

Van Sickle agreed with Thompson's contention that prosecutors failed to turn over favorable information from a forensic videographer to the defense but the judge concluded the omission was so insignificant that it wouldn't have altered the outcome.

Here's a link to SR reporter Chelsea Bannach's article on Van Sickle's ruling. Bannach was filling in for SR reporter Thomas Clouse, who was on vacation when the ruling was issued.

Boy home alone meets ‘prolific burglar’

Spokane police arrest burglary suspect Jay M. Shippy, 23, on Monday. (SPDphoto)

A 13-year-old boy home alone came face to face with a man police describe as a “prolific burglar” after the thief smashed in a basement window Monday, authorities allege.

The boy was at his home in the 400 block of West Carlisle Avenue while his mother was at work when he heard a knock on his door about 12:35 p.m. He looked out the window and saw a man identified by police as Jay Michael Shippy, 23, walking away.

Shippy already is charged in Spokane County Superior Court for a string of burglaries, including one in January at the home of prominent lawyer Carl Oreskovich. He was out of jail awaiting trial when he was arrested Monday.

The boy heard another knock a few minutes later, then heard a window being broken. He heard the basement door knob turning and yelled “hello” before running out the front door to his neighbor's home to call police.

The boy saw the burglar running from behind the home, and they met in the driveway before the boy ran to the neighbor's and the man ran eastbound, according to court documents.

Officer Nate Spiering chased Shippy in his motorcycle before arresting him a few blocks from the Carlisle home. Shippy had a backpack with jewelry inside as well as gardening gloves.

Shippy already is awaiting trial on 23 felony charges related to an alleged burglary spree with Randle “Kyle” Phelps, 29, and Jessica L. Davis, 25.

Shippy is accused with Davis of burglarizng Oreskovich's home on Jan. 19. The longtime lawyer told police he arrived home about 5:30 p.m. and saw an unknown man and woman standing in his home, according to court documents. One ran out the front door and the other the back. Oreskovich reported missing $300 in coins, a laptop and gold jewelry. He told police he'd left his door unlocked, according to court documents.

After Shippy was arrested in April, he directed deputies to Oreskovich's home while giving a tour of places he'd burglarized. Shippy was released shortly after his arrest because charges weren't immediately filed.

Shippy pleaded not guilty to the charges in June after being summonsed to court and was allowed to stay out of jail on his own recognizance. Now he's back behind bars.

$200k patio claim leads to fraud charge

A Spokane businessman has been charged with insurance fraud and attempted theft after officials say a snow-damaged patio cover worth about $4,000 mushroomed into a nearly $200,000 claim.

Keith R. Scribner, 47, pleaded not guilty Monday in Spokane County Superior Court on one count of insurance fraud and one count of attempted theft. He is represented by Carl Oreskovich.

Scribner's mother, Marilyn Warsinske, filed a claim to replace the patio with Liberty Mutual insurance in July 2009, according to the Office of the Washington State Insurance Commissioner.

Scribner sent the insurance company three bids between $195,586 to $213,815 to replace the cover and said no photos existed of the home prior to the damage, and that the home was never appraised, officials say.

But a claims handler discovered an aerial photo of the home on a real estate website that showed a much smaller patio cover than Scribner claimed. Investigators discovered Scribner had discussed plans to replace the deck in 2008 with bids at $3,913 and $4,782, leading to the felony charges.

Alternate juror shocked by Zehm verdict?

This afternoon, Karl Thompson's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, filed an emergency motion to get Thompson out of jail. He also filed a motion asking that he be allowed to contact jurors because of what he said was “an unsolicited email received by defense counsel from one of the alternate jurors.”

“The alternate juror’s email expressed “shock” at the verdict and stated that (the alternate juror) did not have the same opinion regarding the verdict,” Oreskovich wrote. Oreskovich is asking that he be able to ask jurors about potential infuences on their verdict.

He included a declaration by his paralegal, Jodi Dineen, stating she'd seen at least two jurors exposed to a ticker on Northwest Cable News TV that mentioned of the “beating death of a mentally ill janitor” on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 during breakfast at the hotel in Yakima. (Why she didn't tell the court at the time is unclear.)

Oreskovich also cited problems in the testimony of a Zip Trip employee who told jurors Zehm regularly bought 2-liter bottles of soda as a reason his to-be-filed motion for a new trial is likely to succeed.

Oreskovich also said Thompson's conviction is so egregious he shouldn't be incarcerated.

“This Court, having presided over every pretrial hearing and throughout the course of trial, knows that Karl Thompson’s conviction is an aberration,” he wrote. “There is absolutely no proof (as none was offered at trial) of any violent behavior in Karl Thompson’s past. This factor weighs heavily in favor of releasing Karl Thompson pending sentencing and defense counsel asks the Court to give this factor proper consideration.”

A hearing is set for Monday before U.S. Judge Fred Van Sickle.

Jury wants more information on Zehm

Get minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom here.

Jurors in the excessive force trial of Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. apparently are bothered by the lack of information about Otto Zehm being allowed in the trial.

U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle disclosed today that he received a letter from the jury advising they want more information about Zehm, the schizophrenic janitor who died following a violent 2006 encounter with Spokane police officers after being mistakenly identified as a suspect in a possible theft.

Although the specific letter was not disclosed in court, Van Sickle said he wouldn't be granting the jury's request, specifically anything that would show Zehm had not committed a crime when he was confronted by police nor was he high on drugs as some had speculated. Van Sickle has barred any mention in front of jurors of Zehm's innocence or toxicology reports showing no illegal drugs in his system.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed pleaded with Van Sickle to essentially give the jury what it wants.

“Several witnesses have indicated that Mr. Zehm was high on drugs,” Ahmed said. “The United States has to have some way of rebutting that besides just remaining silent.”

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich told Van Sickle his earlier rulings should remain in place.

“We are at a point in the case where we are putting on our last day,” Oreskovich said. “I understand the jurors have questions. But to put evidence in based on a juror question is inappropriate.”

Oreskovich calls prosecution ‘vicious’

Karl F. Thompson Jr. arrives with his legal team, including Carl Oreskovich, far left, at the William O. Douglas Federal Building on Wednesday in Yakima.

Carl Oreskovich, a longtime defense lawyer representing Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson, told Judge Fred Van Sickle outside the presence of the jury that the prosecution of his client is the most vicious he's seen.

 That was after Oreskovich told jurors in his opening statement that this case is about that split second decision that a police officer has to make when apprehending a suspect “and protecting citizens like you and me.”

The “cruel irony” of the case is that the same quick decision making that brought him to the courtroom is “exactly the same quick-decision making” he used when he stopped a suicidal man from jumping from the Monroe Street Bridge and won the police department's lief-saving award, Oreskovich told jurors.

“It's not a case of 20/20 hindsight,” Oreskovch said, calling Thompson a “very good police officer” who left his lunch break to catch a fleeing criminal suspect. Thompson will testify, Oreskovich said.

“Police officers, particularly patrol officers, deal with risks on a daily basis,” including potential threats to their own well being, not just that of others, Oreskovich said.

He told jurors how Thompson was drafted by his coworkers for police chief (which went to Anne Kirkpatrick in 2006) and is well trained and experienced.

Thompson has the “training and experience of a man who's been shot at, who's had partners stabbed.”

“Being a good, responsible police officer,” Thompson looked at the dispatch report when he heard a report of a fleeing suspect who scared girls at an ATM, Oreskovich said.

Thompson realized that he was close by to the suspect and asked a confirming question to dispatch - “he took her money?” when he spotted Zehm in the Zip Trip.

“A police officer has a right to use force,” Oreskovich says. Police have tools, and they have a certain amount of time to be proactive.

“He observed that there were citizens, including two young girls inside the store at the counter,” Oreskovich said.

Oreskovich says surveillance video “doesn't give us all we need to have” because it doesn't show entire interaction, which Oreskovich described as violent.

“Thompson made very quick decisions, very quick commands, and when Mr. Zehm didn't drop the pop bottle” he struck him with baton, Oreskovich said.

Oreskovich told jurors that Thompson relied on his memory in interviews about the violent encounter.
“Unfortunately, he got some things out of order” in his story, Oreskovich said of Thompson. “Now he gets called a liar.

“This will be a long trial. I think in the end, the evidence will show this police officer was not acting in a bad purpose, but with the purpose he was charged with: to investigate and protect citizens. This honorable man is innocent of these crimes.”

Ruling delays 2nd Strine trial indefinitely

A appellate court will review a double-jeopardy claim by a Spokane stockbroker accused of killing a woman in a crash two years ago, leading to an indefinite delay in what was to be a November jury trial.

 A jury in February declared Jon Strine (pictured) not guilty of vehicular homicide, but jury polling revealed that jurors weren't unanimous and were instead split 6-6, which led to a mistrial.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen denied a subsequent motion by Strine's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, regarding double jeopardy for a second trial that argues Strine cannot be retried because he's already been declared not guilty.

Oreskovich filed a motion for discretionary review, and an appellate court commissioner ruled this week that “the issue presented involves an important constitutional right and thus appellate review must be immediate to avoid the trial Mr. Strine maintains is barred by the Fifth Amendment's guarantee,” according to the ruling.

Oreskovich said in an email Tuesday that Strine's Nov. 14 trial will not proceed.

“In fact, there will not be another trial until the Court of Appeals decides this issue and only in the event that it is decided against Mr. Strine,” Oreskovich wrote.

The appeal likely won't be heard until April.

 Strine admits to drinking before the June 2009 crash but disputes a state test that placed his blood-alcohol level at .20.

Strine was driving a Mercedes when he crashed into a motorcycle, paralyzing the driver, Gary Keller, and killing the passenger, Keller's wife, Lorri Keller (pictured.)

Past coverage:

Feb. 10: Mistrial declared in vehicular homicide case

Feb. 4: Strine says he wasn't drunk during fatal crash

Jan. 21: Husband recounts fatal crash

2nd vehicular homicide trial moved to Nov.

The second trial of a Spokane stockbroker accused of killing a woman in a crash two years ago has been postponed until Nov. 14.

Jury selection was set to begin Tuesday in the vehicular homicide trial of Jon Strine, but his lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, has appealed Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzens' rejection of his motion regarding double jeopardy.

Oreskovich contends Strine cannot be tried because a jury verdict of 'not guilty' already was read after his first trial in February.

But jurors weren't unanimous in their decision, which led to a mistrial.

Strine admits to drinking before the June 2009 crash but disputes a state test that placed his blood-alcohol level at .20.

Strine was driving a Mercedes when he crashed into a motorcycle, paralyzing the driver, Gary Keller, and killing the passenger, Keller's wife, Lorri Keller.

Past coverage:

Feb. 10: Mistrial declared in vehicular homicide case

Feb. 4: Strine says he wasn't drunk during fatal crash

Jan. 21: Husband recounts fatal crash

Court: Zehm’s innocence not admissible

A jury likely will not learn that Otto Zehm was innocent of a crime when he was confronted by a Spokane police officer in a fatal encounter five years ago, federal appeals court judges ruled Thursday. 

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals supported a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to exclude from the trial of Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. the evidence that Zehm had not committed a crime prior to the incident on March 18, 2006.

Carl Oreskovich, one of the attorneys defending Thompson against the felony charges of excessive force and lying to investigators, said he was “obviously” pleased with the decision.

Read Tom Clouse's full story here.

9th Circuit hears arguments in Zehm case

SEATTLE — A jury should be told Otto Zehm hadn’t committed any crime before he was beaten by a Spokane police officer who claims Zehm was aggressive and defiant when confronted in a North Side convenience store, a federal appeals court panel was told Monday.

Federal prosecutors have appealed a pretrial ruling by U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle in Spokane that excludes evidence of Zehm’s innocence as prejudicial and inflammatory. They told a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals it would help the jury decide whether Thompson was lying when he later described Zehm with words like sinister, aggressive, defiant and resolute.

But an attorney for Officer Karl Thompson said the trial judge is right to keep such information from a jury when the trial starts, because Thompson didn’t know those facts when he approached Zehm. It’s inflammatory and could prejudice the jury against the officer, attorney Carl Oreskovich said.

Read the rest of Jim Camden's story here.

Strine: Cops pinned fatal crash on me

A Spokane stockbroker admits to drinking alcohol the day his Mercedes crashed into a motorcycle, paralyzing the driver and killing the passenger, but he told jurors he wasn’t drunk.

He’d told the doctor who examined him after the June 2, 2009, crash that he hadn’t had anything to drink because a police officer was in the room, listening.

“I was afraid,” said Jon A. Strine, who is charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular assault for the crash. “I knew (Spokane police Officer Paul) Watson was going to try to pin this on me.” 

Read the rest of my story here.

Closing arguments are scheduled Tuesday afternoon because Strine's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, will be in Seattle on Monday for a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing regarding the Karl Thompson-Otto Zehm case.

Oreskovich, who is representing Thompson, will be arguing against federal prosecutors' request that jurors be informed of the fact that Zehm did not commit a crime prior to the fatal confrontation.

Officer’s trial over Zehm death delayed

The criminal trial of Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. has been delayed again.

U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle agreed to a request by defense attorney Carl Oreskovich to change the date of the trial despite objections from a federal prosecutor.

The trial, stemming from the 2006 confrontation between Thompson and Otto Zehm that resulted in Zehm’s death, has been moved to Oct. 11 from March 7.

The trial was put on hold last summer after prosecutors asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a ruling by Van Sickle that prevented them from presenting evidence that Zehm had not committed a crime on March 18, 2006, when he was confronted by Thompson in a Spokane convenience store.

Thompson struck Zehm with a police baton and shocked him with a Taser during the confrontation, which included six other officers.

Attorneys for both sides will travel to Seattle on Feb. 7 to present oral arguments to a panel of appellate judges.
  

Officer’s lawyer asks for Zehm trial delay

An attorney representing Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. is asking a federal judge to postpone the March 7 trial while an appeals court considers questions over the admissibility of certain information about the fatal encounter with Otto Zehm .

Carl Oreskovich (right) wrote in the request that court officials say it generally takes the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three months to a year to issue its written decisions. Oreskovich and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin have submitted lengthy written arguments and are scheduled to appear in Seattle on Feb. 7 to present oral arguments to a 9th Circuit panel on the pre-trial admissibility dispute.

“While there is no way to predict a timetable as to when the Ninth Circuit will issue its written opinion, it is highly unlikely that a decision will be available prior to the March 7, 2011 trial date,” Oreskovich wrote.

Federal prosecutors are asking appellate judges to overturn a decision by U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle to bar evidence showing that Zehm, a 36-year-old mentally ill janitor (pictured left), had not committed a crime on March 18, 2006, when he was beaten and shocked with a Taser by Thompson.

Oreskovich said the trial may include up to 100 witnesses.

“Many of these witnesses will need to be interviewed again prior to the time of trial,” Oreskovich wrote. “This process will take an enormous amount of time and resources, all of which will be wasted again if the trial date is not moved.”

Federal prosecutors have not yet filed a response.

WSP: Chism threatened to kill troopers

A Spokane firefighter exonerated in a child pornography investigation two years ago threatened to beat a state trooper “to death” in a confrontation that led to felony charges Friday in Stevens County Superior Court, prosecutors allege.

New court documents show two Washington State Patrol troopers told investigators that Lt. Todd Chism’s anger during the April 6 arrest began after one told Chism he seemed familiar, then erupted into a profanity-laced tirade following a brawl in which he was stunned with a Taser several times. One trooper broke his thumb; another severely injured a hand.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen filed the documents Friday when he charged Chism with two felony counts of third-degree assault and two misdemeanors: resisting arrest and being in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

Chism, a Spokane Fire Department veteran, has been on paid leave since April 8.

“There were some aspects of this decision that were very unusual,” Rasmussen said. “Certainly the history of Mr. Chism and the things that had happened between him and the state patrol warranted careful examination of the material.”

Chism’s lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, said his client’s version of what happened “is substantially different from the summary we see from the state patrol.”

He emphasized that the charging document “indicates Mr. Chism was cooperative until a second trooper arrived and made reference that he knew who Mr. Chism was.”

Read the rest of my story here

Past coverage: April 9: Firefighter Tasered in DUI arrest

Oreskovich: ‘I’m not Internet proficient’

By Thomas Clouse

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle didn’t have the kindest of responses Tuesday when a defense attorney representing Spokane police Office Karl F. Thompson, Jr. asked the judge to compel federal prosecutors to turn over the names, phone numbers and addresses of several witnesses who watched the confrontation with Otto Zehm (right).

Attorney Courtney Garcea, who is helping Carl Oreskovich represent Thompson, said she understood that the law does not require federal prosecutors to hand over that information, but that the matter did fall under the judge’s discretion.

“It is certainly reasonable that the United States be ordered to provide that information,” she said.

Van Sickle responded by saying that anyone who can operate a computer “would find this information within key strokes. Why can’t this be done by people working on behalf of the defense team?”

Garcea responded by saying the government has that information readily available and it would avoid the time necessary to find the addresses and phone numbers.

Van Sickle, who became more animated, said that information could have been found in the time it took Garcea to make the argument.

“I kind of scratch my head. Have you called the U.S. Attorney’s Office and asked for it?” he asked.

When Garcea replied no, he said: “Why didn’t you do it?”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin said he would have responded to such a request by contacting the witnesses and inquiring whether they want to speak to the defense.

If so, he would have provided the information Garcea sought.

“It’s unfathomable to believe they don’t have the ability to track down the information,” Durkin said.

He pointed out that the Spokane Police Department took down every name, date of birth, address and phone number of the witnesses they interviewed at the convenience store on March 18, 2006, following the confrontation with Zehm who died two days later.

“They have a lot of resources and access to the information,” Durkin said. “This motion was designed to bog down the United States with briefings without any contact with the U.S. Attorney’s Office at all.”

Oreskovich then got up and apologized to the judge. He explained that he has been unable to locate six witnesses.

“I’m not Internet proficient,” Oreskovich said. “My apologies to this court that I didn’t write a letter saying I couldn’t find these particular witnesses.”

Van Sickle ended the discussion by saying: “I don’t think (finding) six people would be an onerous project.”

The exchange came during a hearing in which Van Sickle denied Oreskovich’s request to dismiss a lying charge against Thompson.

Read the story here

Bar owner’s lawyer: Crash ‘not a crime’

An attorney for the Spokane Valley bar owner accused of killing a bicyclist in a hit and run crash calls the incident “a tragic accident and not a crime.”

Carl Oreskovich appeared with his client, Scott C. Reckord, in Spokane County Superior Court today. Reckord peladed not guilty to charges of vehicular homicide and hit-and run for a March 1 collision that killed 56-year-old David L. Squires. Reckord, the owner of Sullivan Scoreboard, did not comment after the hearing, according to a story by Thomas Clouse.

Squires (pictured at right with his wife, Christy) was riding southbound through the crosswalk of the intersection of Division Street and Sprague Avenue when he was knocked from his bike.Witnesses said Reckord’s silver Dodge pickup then ran Squires over.

A woman and her son then chased Reckord, flashing their lights and honking their horn to get his attention, according to police records. The woman’s husband stayed at the scene to give first aid to Squires. Officers arrested Reckord after he failed a field sobriety test.

“We are just getting started,” said Oreskovich after the short hearing. “The Reckord family extends its sympathies to Mr. Squires’ family. We think this is a tragic accident and not a crime.”

Oreskovich successfully made the same argument when he represented Clifford Helm for the Nov. 1, 2005, crash that killed five children and seriously injured their father, Jeffry Schrock. A jury acquitted Helm of acquitted Helm of vehicular homicide charges in March 2008.

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady said the felony hit-and-run charge carries between 31 and 41 months in prison if a person with no previous criminal history is found guilty.

Greg Squires, the victim’s brother, said the arraignment Monday was just the first step on a lengthy legal process.

“I think they are just trying to cover for him,” Squires said of Reckord. “He’s just trying to protect himself.”

Past coverage: Family mourns, remembers

Bicyclist’s family: ‘Death just too tragic’

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