A federal judge Friday granted a request by the attorney for former Spokane police officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to allow lawyers 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.
Thompson, 64, faces a range of 27 to 33 months in federal prison, although defense attorney Carl Oreskovich has asked Judge Fred Van Sickle in court records to reduce that range even further because he claims Thompson has accepted responsibility for his actions.
Thompson’s sentencing was originally set for Jan. 27, but Van Sickle postponed that hearing indefinitely after receiving a letter from video forensics expert Grant Fredericks, who claimed that federal prosecutors left out information in their summaries to defense that would have helped Thompson.
“The issue for us is whether we fairly ferret out what appears to be a serious disagreement between what Mr. Fredericks told the government” and their summary of that expected testimony, Oreskovich said. “These are circumstances … I have not seen in a 30-year legal career. I think there are issues raised regarding Mr. Thompson’s due process rights.”
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin told Van Sickle that Fredericks previously had been hired by Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi and had given the city exactly the same information – that the video does not show Thompson striking Zehm with a baton for the first minute and 13 seconds of the confrontation.
“Rocky Treppiedi had several interactions with Mr. Fredericks,” Durkin said. “And, he was on their witness list as well. All of these suggestions and innuendoes and claims that there are serious violations, the United States strongly contests.”
While Fredericks was listed as a witness for both sides, he was not called during the four-week trial in Yakima.
“I’m concerned about this matter,” Van Sickle said. “I simply feel that given the statement made by Mr. Fredericks and the information provided, that there should be an opportunity to interview Mr. Fredericks with a protected order and that there also be a videotaped deposition.”
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