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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Karl Thompson

Jailed Ridpath developer wants trial moved

Spokane developer Greg Jeffreys, who is jailed on federal charges alleging that he defrauded investors of millions of dollars, has asked a judge for a change of venue for his trial, arguing that local media “has saturated the Spokane area with prejudicial and inflammatory remarks.”

Citing primarily Spokesman-Review coverage, Jeffreys argued that half of the county’s potential jury pool had been tainted with information unrelated to the trial. The motion also cited the case against former Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson, in which Thompson’s trial was moved to Yakima in 2011 after five years of “intense media coverage.” Thompson was found guilty of excessive use of force for his role in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006.

In a response to Jeffreys’ request, the government, through U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby, said claims of a prejudiced jury pool were “wholly overstated” and asked the judge to reject the request.

U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson will hear the request on Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.

The judge will also hear a motion from Jeffreys to suppress evidence, including oral statements from Jeffreys, because they were a “direct result of an illegal search and seizure” of Jeffreys’ 10,000-square-foot home by 24 law enforcement agents on July 19, 2012, as well of Jeffreys’ person when he was arrested at the airport on Jan. 30.

Jeffreys is known for his central role in a development plan of the Ridpath Hotel. He faces 73 felony charges ranging from bank fraud to theft, though none relate to the shuttered downtown high-rise.

After violating previous orders by a judge and threatening a business associate and FBI special agent, Judge Peterson ruled that Jeffreys must remain in jail until his January trial.

Thompson being held at Phoenix security facility

Authorities have transferred 65-year-old Karl F. Thompson from the Federal Detention Center Sea-Tac in Seattle to a medium security facility in Arizona, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Though he's listed as being located at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix, Thompson's release date is listed as unknown. He was sentenced Nov. 15 to four years in prison.

The former Spokane police officer was listed as “in transit” as of Friday last week.

Federal prosecutor says Spokane has good police force

U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby, whose office handled the excessive force prosecution of former Spokane police officer Karl Thompson, took deliberate steps Thursday to praise the trustworthiness of the local police force overall.

“That's not an indictment of our entire police department,” Ormsby said just moments after Thompson was ordered to serve more than four years in prison for the fatal 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm. “We have a good police department.”

Although Ormsby still supports calls for an in-depth Justice Department probe of the Spokane police department, he noted that several steps have been taken since Thompson's conviction last year to improve the department's accountability.

He said the city's Use of Force Commission has been asked by Mayor David Condon to not only examine the department's past practices but to recommend a “path forward.” Ormsby said he believes the commission's recommendations, particularly with a City Hall and police department committed to improvement, could go a long way to helping restore community trust in the police force.

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.

Encounter with jurors sparks debate

Buried in the transcripts unsealed last week of the secret jury hearings held by a federal judge in the Karl F. Thompson Jr. case, was an apparent chance encounter between the jury forewoman and the alternate juror.

Jury Forewoman Diane Riley said she was having an electrical problem at her Ellensburg home and called her utility company. That company sent Donald Finn, who was identified during jury selection, as a line worker who was later determined to be the alternate juror.

Finn told the judge he could find nothing wrong at Riley's home and he seemed to suggest that Riley made the call to give her a chance to convince him that the jury made the right call.

“I said, well, my feelings were it’s just, you know, just a big dog and pony show,” the alternate juror said. “The guy passed away at the scene, Karl had to pay for it. And I said that’s kind of the way I saw it.”

Riley said as soon as Finn recognized her, he started inquiriing about the jury's decision to convict Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his 2006 encounter with Otto Zehm.

“He started asking questions about it, and … he expressed then how he had been agitated and angry that the jury found Mr. Thompson guilty,” Riley said. “He felt the witnesses were fake, paid dog and pony show, and that he didn’t believe anything that any of them said.”

Riley said she told Finn that he was not part of the deliberations and all the discussions the jurors had. She added that she’d learned information from an author about alleged past transgressions by Thompson.

During the May 23 hearing, U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle asked Riley about what the author told her. “Is this relevant?” she asked.

“I’m not trying to trick you. I’m really not. And you’re not in any way on the hot seat,” Van Sickle said. “I’m just trying to gather information, to be honest with you, and this is the right way to do it that I’m aware of.”

Read past coverage here.

Alternate juror blasts case against Thompson

New documents released Thursday show that the only person who raised issues about juror misconduct in the trial that convicted former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. was an alternate juror who was not privy to the final deliberations.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle called for the secret hearings in May after attorneys learned that the alternate juror told a court security officer that jurors improperly discussed the case prior to deliberations that resulted in the Nov. 2 conviction.

“I thought the government put up a terrible case. Horrible,” said the alternate juror, whose name was redacted. “I thought they got it wrong.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Juror: Thompson lawyers twisted words

The forewoman of the jury that convicted former Spokane Police officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of excessive force said in a letter to a federal judge that defense attorneys have twisted her words in their effort to force a new trial for the decorated officer.

The documents are contained in files previously sealed by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle.

Read the rest of my story here.

Feds oppose Thompson prison delay

Federal prosecutors appear to be growing frustrated with the ongoing delays that have kept convicted Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. out of prison.

Eight months have passed since a jury convicted Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators in the 2006 fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm, an unarmed janitor erroneously implicated in a possible theft. But court-ordered delays have postponed sentencing indefinitely as he seeks a new trial.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Zehm lawsuit settled for $1.67 million

A $1.67 million out-of-court settlement has been reached in the civil suit against Spokane police filed by relatives of Otto Zehm, the mentally ill janitor who died following a violent confrontation with officers after being mistakenly implicated in a possible theft.

The deal also includes a formal apology by city officials, a recommendation to the Spokane Park Board to name a pavilion after Zehm, crisis intervention training for all police officers and $50,000 for a consultant to advise the city about updates to its use-of-force policy.

Read the rest of the story here.

List being compiled of discredited officers

Spokane law enforcement officials for the first time are compiling a list of officers and deputies who have a record of lying or who have been discredited while doing their jobs.

The so-called “Brady list” is part of a legal requirement to notify defense lawyers of any information that could be used to challenge the credibility of investigators.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Mediation set in Zehm police lawsuit

A federal judge has set a two-day mediation session to settle the $14.5 million civil suit filed against nine Spokane Police officers by the mother and estate of Otto Zehm.

U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko issued an order directing the Zehm family attorneys, City Attorney Nancy Isserlis and lawyers representing the city’s insurance carrier to meet on May 14 and 15. The parties apparently have agreed to allow U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan from Oregon to oversee those mediation sessions.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Thompson sentencing delayed again

U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle agreed to another delay Friday in the sentencing of former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr.

Van Sickle agreed to a request by attorney Dutch Wetzel who is representing video forensic expert Grant Fredericks, who caused the delay when he contacted the judge to allege that federal prosecutors mischaracterized his expected testimony in the trial last fall in which Thompson was convicted of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich has claimed prosecutorial misconduct because he says Fredericks’ unused testimony could have helped defend Thompson. Federal prosecutors have argued that Fredericks’ claims are baseless and he has offered misleading testimony in other cases.

Van Sickle instructed Wetzel to prepare a summary of any materials Fredericks might have that would help him decide. Van Sickle scheduled another status conference for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to get an update on Wetzel’s progress.


  

Feds dispute Zehm trial defense claims

The forensic videographer whose allegations of prosecutorial misconduct have indefinitely stalled the sentencing of former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. is depicted in new court documents as an attention-seeking police apologist who lied to federal investigators.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed filed scores of pages Friday detailing the pre-trial and post-trial dealings with forensic video expert Grant Fredericks, who approached U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle with concerns only after a jury convicted Thompson in November of using excessive force and lying to investigators to cover-up the 2006 fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Moses, McIntyre face charges for Zehm

Federal obstruction charges are expected to be filed soon against two more Spokane police officers in connection with the city’s handling of the Otto Zehm investigation, which U.S. Department of Justice officials have called an “extensive cover-up.”

  Attorneys representing Officers Sandra McIntyre and Tim Moses both confirmed Thursday that they have entered discussions with federal prosecutors about the potential charges relating to their clients’ testimony during the investigation into Zehm’s death.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 17: Tim Moses resigns as police spokesman

Nov. 2: Bugbee: Tim Moses didn't cover anything up

Oct. 21: Tim Moses: Thought I could trust the FBI

Oct. 21: McIntyre described 'intimidation' by feds

Judge grants Thompson interview request

A federal judge Friday granted a request by the attorney for former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to interview a government expert witness who claims that federal prosecutors mischaracterized his expected testimony.

The move further delays the sentencing of Thompson, who was convicted Nov. 3 of using excessive force and lying to cover up his actions during the March 18, 2006, confrontation with Otto Zehm, who died two days later.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

A look at Spokane police use of force

To understand why the Spokane Police Department’s use-of-force training is under a microscope, consider this disconnect: Although the state’s top police trainer concluded that the fatal 2006 confrontation with unarmed janitor Otto Zehm was indefensible, the department’s own instructors and the city’s legal advisers have insisted that Spokane police officers were justified and handled the encounter appropriately.

 Here is how Spokane police Officer Terry Preuninger, a department training instructor (pictured), defended Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr.’s decision to beat and shock the retreating Zehm: “If the officer believes that they were in danger, then that use of force would be authorized,” Preuninger told a federal jury in October, adding that there doesn’t have to be a “factual basis” for the officer’s fear of harm.

Read the rest of the story here.

Also check out this profile on new interim police chief Scott Stephens.

Jury convicts man of threatening officer

A jury has convicted a Spokane man of felony harassment for threatening to kill a Spokane police officer.

Rudy Ray Cordova, 38, was acquitted of fourth-degree domestic assault, which is the suspected crime that brought him in contact with Officer Chris McMurtrey.

Cordova's lawyer, Doug Phelps, questioned McMurtrey at trial about his support for Officer Karl Thompson and pointed out that McMurtrey said he feared Cordova in part because of his felony convictions. Phelps emphasized that Thompson was a convicted felon, too, but McMurtrey didn't fear him.

It apparently didn't sway jurors, who returned the guilty verdict on Thursday. Cordova is now awaiting sentencing on the felony harassment charge.

McMurtrey had arrested Cordova on suspicion of domestic violence assault Feb. 26 when Cordova told him, “That’s how people died, by taking the wrong people to jail…Don’t worry. I’ll get out tomorrow and find out where you guys live. I’ve been to prison,” according to court testimony.

Cop questioned over Thompson support

A Spokane police officer who says he feared for his life after being threatened by a felon was asked in court Wednesday about supportive comments he posted on a Facebook page in support of another convicted felon – former Officer Karl Thompson.

 Defense lawyer Doug Phelps questioned Officer Chris McMurtrey’s contention that 38-year-old Rudy Ray Cordova’s prior convictions for violent crimes were a cause for concern, noting that Thompson has been convicted of a violent crime, too.

Read the rest of my story here.

Thompson seeks sentence reduction

A federal prosecutor is objecting to a request by convicted former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to reduce his potential prison sentence because he claims to have taken responsibility for using excessive force on Otto Zehm and lying to cover it up.

 Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin has responded to an earlier request filed by defense attorney Carl Oreskovich to reduce Thompson’s sentencing guidelines, which currently call for him to serve between 27 and 33 months in federal prison. Oreskovich has argued that the decorated former officer has accepted responsibility for the crimes.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Thompson’s motion to acquit denied

A federal judge Monday again ruled that government prosecutors provided enough evidence to allow a jury to convict former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of using excessive force on Otto Zehm.

As he did during the four-week trial in Yakima, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle denied a motion brought by defense attorneys who argued that federal prosecutors did not provide evidence showing that Thompson acted willfully or with a bad purpose when he beat Zehm with a baton and shocked him with a Taser.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 16: Zehm civil suit settlment elusive

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