January 24, 2012 in City, News

Thompson seeks sentence reduction

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Background and the latest updates

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.

“While Defendant Thompson did choose to exercise his right to trial, this does not preclude him from receiving a sentencing reduction for acceptance of responsibility,” Oreskovich wrote in a Jan. 6 filing. “Thompson has understood and accepted responsibility for the actions he took inside the Zip Trip store.”

Durkin responded late last night that the reduction does not “apply to a defendant who stands convicted but steadfastly maintains that the jury simply ‘got it wrong.’”

“In contrast, Defendant’s and his counsel’s adamant contest of the prosecution in this case, at every turn, and their repeated attempts to justify Defendant’s convicted criminal offense conduct by ‘blaming the victim’ Otto Zehm … ‘flies in the face of reason,’ is not rationally supported by either the facts or the law, and respectfully, must be summarily rejected,” Durkin wrote.

In addition to arguing the finer points of the sentencing guidelines, the document for the first time lists a potential sentencing range for Thompson, 64, who was convicted by a jury on Nov. 3 after a four-week trial in Yakima.

Prosecutors initially indicated they would seek a sentence of six to eight years in prison. But Durkin indicated in his court filing that the pre-sentence report calls for sentencing range of 27 to 33 months in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle originally called for Thompson to be sentenced this Friday, but earlier this month vacated that order and has not yet set a new sentencing date. He canceled the sentencing after Oreskovich raised concerns about how prosecutors summarized the expected testimony of forensic video expert Grant Fredericks.

Oreskovich was supposed to have filed a new motion today seeking a new trial but on Monday filed a written request to Van Sickle seeking an extension of time to file that motion until he can sort out issues relating the Fredericks.

According to court records, Fredericks was hired by Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi to enhance the video surveillance footage taken at the Zip Trip, located at 1712 N. Division St.

Four cameras captured the confrontation between Thompson and Zehm that occurred on March 18, 2006. Zehm is seen retreating from an advancing Thompson, who strikes Zehm with his baton several time and uses his Taser on the man after Zehm was erroneously reported as having stolen money from a nearby ATM. After an altercation involving several other officers in which Zehm was hogtied on his stomach, he stopped breathing and died two days later.

The FBI later hired Fredericks to analyze the Zip Trip video and prepare still photographs of the encounter.

Despite being on the witness list for both sides, attorneys did not call Fredericks during the four-week trial. It wasn’t until after the conviction that Fredericks raised concerns about how Durkin summarized his expected testimony.

Oreskovich now alleges prosecutorial misconduct and is seeking a new trial based on Fredericks’ concerns.


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