Officers say FBI forced incriminating testimony
YAKIMA – Two close friends and fellow officers of Karl F. Thompson Jr. gave the same basic reason why they earlier provided incriminating testimony against him in the case involving Otto Zehm: The government made me do it.
Officer Sandy McIntyre – who considers Thompson a father figure – joined Officer Tim Moses in saying they believe that FBI agents intimidated them into testifying against Thompson, who faces felony charges of using unreasonable force and lying to investigators after the March 18, 2006 confrontation, from which Zehm later died.
The prosecution will call two witnesses Monday and the defense should start calling a series of experts later in the day. Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich said he thinks he will be done by Friday.
Moses testified Thursday and finished Friday morning by again claiming that federal investigators intimidated him into telling a grand jury under oath that Thompson admitted he hit Zehm in the head with a baton after Zehm lunged at him inside the Zip Trip at 1712 N. Division St.
“Did the government attempt to persuade you to provide false or misleading information?” asked Victor Boutros, a trial attorney with the Department of Justice.
“Yes they did,” Moses said. “I did as instructed to do by you and the FBI.”
But Moses denied to a grand jury on June 16, 2009, that any such intimidation took place. Yet it didn’t alter his trial testimony, which only occurred because he obtained a letter of immunity from the government in lieu of invoking hisFifth Amendment protections from self-incrimination.
“They made it very clear to me I was going to face obstruction charges if I didn’t testify the way you wanted me to,” Moses said.
Oreskovich asked about that so-called intimidation.
“They got you to say that Karl Thompson told you that the reason he used force was because Mr. Zehm lunged at him?” Orekovich said. Moses replied: “Yes. I have no recollection of that whatsoever.”
Oreskovich said FBI agents showed Moses snipets of video showing him talking to ambulance employees – who earlier testified Moses was their source for head strikes in their report – and a three-dimentional recreation of the event.
“Your memory wasn’t refreshed that day?” Oreskovich asked. Moses replied: “I wouldn’t say refreshed. I would say influenced. I was scared. They pressured me all day long to give that testimony.”
Later Boutros called McIntyre, who is under federal investigation for possible obstruction of justice.
McIntyre arrived at the scene that night and was the first officer to review the portions of the surveillance video that showed the initial confrontation between Thompson and Zehm. She then spoke to Thompson.
Boutros, in his opening statement, said McIntyre told Thompson what she saw and after that point he stopped using “lunged” as a justification for using force against Zehm.
McIntyre met with the Spokane city attorney’s office before one of her three grand jury appearances where she answered mostly with “I don’t recall” to questions about what she saw and learned on March 18, 2006.
“That was true even when you did have a recollection?” Boutros asked. She replied: “To a certain point.”
“So you lied?” Boutros asked.
McIntyre said no. “When you don’t recall 100 percent you don’t get a chance to explain. That’s what I wanted.”
Boutros then read a transcript of questions and answers where McIntyre confirmed that her testimony was complete and she promised to immediately inform the FBI if her later recollections contradicted her testimony.
“I was given the opportunity,” McIntyre conceded, “but under the intimidation I did not feel like I could do that.”
Boutros also pointed out that she testified under oath that she was treated “good” by federal investigators. “That’s how I answered it but not how I felt,” she said.
Under cross examination, Oreskovich asked McIntyre – a 17-year veteran – about her two children and she paused for several moments as she cried.
“You felt they were leaning on you – that they wanted you to give them testimony that was favorable to them,” Oreskovich said. “It wasn’t too difficult to scare the hell out of you and then admit what they wanted you to admit before a grand jury.”
She replied: “That’s exactly how I felt.”
Boutros also called Officer Erin Raleigh, who testified that Zehm’s last words were: “All I wanted was a Snickers.”
The testimony ended with eyewitness Greg Likarish, who was inside the store that night and only feet from where Thompson confronted Zehm.
Likarish said he heard Thompson tell Zehm to get down before striking him in the head twice with the baton and then the shoulder, ribs and knee.
Defense attorney Steve Lamberson said a witness standing next to Likarish with the same field of view said Thompson struck Zehm on the shoulder.
“Is it possible you are not remembering the first baton strike corretctly?” Lamberson asked. Likarish replied: “Oh no. It was definitely two (baton strikes) to the side of the head and the clavicle.”
Eventually during the struggle, Thompson was standing over Zehm and told him to stop resisting before he fired the Taser, Likarish said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed asked Likarish what Zehm was doing just before Thompson shot him with a Taser: “He was just laying there,” Likarish said.