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Judge releases Thompson from jail

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 7, 2011, 6:41 p.m.

A federal judge ruled late this afternoon that convicted Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. should be released from jail pending his sentencing, which he set for Jan. 27.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle reversed a Friday order by U.S. Magistrate James Hutton detaining Thompson after a jury convicted him last week of using excessive force and lying to cover up his actions against Otto Zehm.

Van Sickle cited Thompson’s lifelong service in law enforcement, his “exemplary” military service in the Vietnam War and complying with all conditions of his release prior to his four-week trial in Yakima.

However, the decision goes against a similar ruling by a judge who ruled that the officers convicted in the Rodney King beatings were not above the law that requires mandatory detention for persons convicted of violent federal crimes.

Jeffry Finer, who represents Zehm’s family in a companion civil suit, said he spoke with federal prosecutors who have not yet decided whether they will appeal Van Sickle’s release of Thompson to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Unlike other matters, detention appeals are usually decided within about 10 days, Finer said.

Thompson appeared Monday in a yellow Bonner County Jail jumpsuit. He had not shaved recently and he looked as if he had not slept well during his stay in jail.

Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich declined comment but said that Thompson must be transported back to Sandpoint where he will be released to go back to his home in Hayden, Idaho.

(This article has been re-written and updated with new developments since it was first posted today. Some of the comments below may reference earlier material that has been deleted or recast.)


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