The city of Spokane will provide legal protection for nine members of its police force involved in a lawsuit over a mentally ill man who died after being detained by police three years ago.
The family of Otto Zehm filed a federal civil rights lawsuit earlier this month, naming officers at the scene and the department’s acting chief in claims stemming from Zehm’s death three days after he was beaten and Tasered by police at a North Side convenience store.
Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi told the council Monday night the city had no choice under the law but to defend the officers because they “acted within the scope of their employment.”
They were on duty and responding to a call, Treppiedi said, so the city must indemnify the officers – provide legal assistance and cover any damages that aren’t punitive – “regardless of what anybody might think about who’s right or wrong.”
Public comment was held to a minimum after council President Joe Shogan told the audience that they could not discuss the case, only the resolution to provide the coverage. The council voted unanimously to provide the coverage.
Judge upholds drug case fines
A Spokane judge has upheld $6,000 in fines against the Spokane County prosecutor’s office for “careless handling” of a drug robbery case.
In a January ruling, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen ordered $8,000 in sanctions – $2,000 each to attorneys representing four defendants. On Monday, she ruled that sanctions shouldn’t be paid to the lawyer of defendant Anthony Kongchunji because he reached a plea agreement before trial.
Eitzen rebuffed a motion by the state to withdraw the sanctions, ordering payments to attorneys Timothy Note, David Partovi and assistant public defender Anna Nordtvedt.
Eitzen acted after Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz amended the charges immediately before the trial was to begin to show the crimes were committed on a different day. She said it was the first time in 16 years on the bench that she’d levied a major sanction, but found it appropriate in a case that involved a “perfect storm” of procedural mistakes.
On Feb. 17, a jury found Robert E. Larson, Tyler W. Gassman and Paul Statler guilty of first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and drive-by shooting.
Finalist for UI job withdraws
A third finalist for president of the University of Idaho, David Dooley, provost and vice president at Montana State University, has withdrawn his name from consideration, leaving just two of the original five finalists in the running.
The two: UI College of Law Dean Don Burnett and former Colorado State University President Larry Penley.
Dooley said in a statement that he withdrew after “a series of cordial, candid and informative discussions” between him and the state Board of Education led to a mutual agreement “that our distinct visions for the role, scope, and future of the University of Idaho were not the right fit at this time.”
Duane Nellis, Kansas State University provost and senior vice president, withdrew from the running on March 11. Ham Shirvani, president of California State University- Stanislaus, withdrew his name in mid-February.
Former UI President Tim White left last spring to become chancellor of the University of California at Riverside.
Lawmakers pass police aid bill
Legislation to help permanently disabled law enforcement officers like Mike Kralicek, of Coeur d’Alene, with health insurance costs for their families has passed the Idaho House unanimously and now heads to Gov. Butch Otter.
Kralicek actually isn’t covered by the bill – it’s only for those injured on or after July 1, 2009. But the Coeur d’Alene police officer, who suffered critical brain and spinal cord injuries after a fleeing, handcuffed suspect shot him in the face three days after Christmas in 2004, backed the legislation in hopes it will help others in the future.
Senate Bill 1111 provides a $100,000 lump-sum payment to cover the family’s health insurance costs in such situations. It’s entirely funded by the officers, through a slightly increased retirement contribution, and run through the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, at no cost to state or local governments.
From staff reports