Another Spokane police officer is being toppled by the Otto Zehm scandal.
Officer Timothy Moses, 52, is expected to plead guilty in Spokane Municipal Court to a misdemeanor charge of making a false statement to a public servant, and will resign from the police force, Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker confirmed this evening. The plea bargain also will end an ongoing FBI investigation that could have led to more serious felony charges against Moses.
Authorities accuse Moses of lying to FBI agents and federal prosecutors when he changed his story in 2010 to a version that was more favorable to Senior Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., who was the first officer to confront Zehm in a North Spokane Zip Trip convenience store. Thompson was convicted in 2011 by a federal jury of using excessive force against Zehm and lying about the encounter to investigators.
Moses attorney, Chris Bugbee, confirmed in March 2012 that he had entered discussions with federal prosecutors about a potential plea bargain for his client. Attempts to reach Bugbee today have been unsuccessful. Moses currently is on self-imposed leave from the police force, city officials said today.
The charge against him carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine, though it’s unlikely that Moses — with no prior criminal record and decades of service to the community — would be be sentenced to that.
It’s unclear why the case ultimately will be tried in Spokane Municipal Court, which typically handles traffic tickets and generally minor civil and criminal offenses. The investigative report used to show evidence for the charge was written by FBI Agent Lisa Jangaard.
U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby declined to comment on the case or on the federal investigation.
Moses told federal investigators under oath in 2009 that Thompson told him that he felt threatened by Zehm because Zehm “lunged” at him with a Pepsi bottle. Store security video later showed no evidence that Zehm lunged toward Thompson before Thompson struck Zehm with a baton – though Zehm did appear to try to block blows from the baton with the two liter bottle.
But in 2010, Moses told federal investigators that he did not remember Thompson using the word “lunge.”
Moses also flip-flopped his position on baton strikes delivered by Thompson to Zehm.
In 2009, Moses told a grand jury in sworn testimony that Thompson told him that he had struck Zehm in the head, neck and upper torso with his baton and that he relayed that information to the ambulance company, AMR, which transported Zehm to the hospital.
But in 2010, Moses met with federal officials and told them he no longer remembered telling an AMR employee that Thompson had struck Zehm in the head, neck and upper torso. Instead, Moses said he remember Thompson saying that he struck Zehm in the “leg and then again a number of times all over.”
The point is important. Striking a defending in the head with a baton is considered deadly force, which requires a higher threshold for use.
Moses testified at Thompson’s trial only after the U.S. Department of Justice obtained a waiver preventing him from seeking protection from self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. During his testimony, Moses claimed that federal prosecutors intimidated him into giving that grand jury testimony.