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Prosecutor, sheriff candidates debate on KSPS

Election Day is Tuesday, and if you still haven't decided which candidate for Spokane County prosecutor or sheriff you're supporting, these televised debates that aired last night on KSPS-TV may help you decide.

Check out the videos after the jump.

Beggs mailer: ‘I fought for Otto Zehm, and I will fight for You!’

Mailers for the two men vying to replace outgoing Spokane County Prosecutor Steve Tucker echo the strengths the candidates have touted on the campaign trail.

For Democratic challenger Breean Beggs, that means a reference to his work representing the family of slain janitor Otto Zehm in civil proceedings against the city of Spokane and Karl Thompson, the police officer found guilty of violating Zehm's civil rights.

On the back of the mailer, right next to a personalized message thanking the recipient for their vote, is the quote, "I fought for Otto Zehm and I will fight for You!"

Beggs has touted his work in the Zehm case on the campaign trail, as well as pointing to his involvement in the creation of the Blueprint for Reform, a document calling for changes throughout the criminal justice in Spokane that was crafted with input from Beggs and the organization he helped found, Smart Justice.

Larry Haskell, a deputy prosecutor running as a Republican, includes no personal message but touts his experience in the office. Haskell has questioned whether Beggs' reputation for suing city and county law enforcement will hinder his ability to head the prosecutor's office.

The race, which has already shattered fundraising totals in most recent campaigns for the office, eclipsed the $200,000 mark this week. Beggs reports more than $133,000 in contributions and recently reported television ad purchases totaling more than $7,000 on local stations.

Haskell has collected more than $75,000, according to his most recent reports to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. He has bought $4,000 worth of radio ads, according to the reports.

What do you think of Beggs' message linking himself with the Zehm case in his mailers? And do you share Haskell's concerns that Beggs will have difficulty working with law enforcement he's sued in the past?

Zehm’s family ‘relieved’ by guilty verdict

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Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson leaves the William O. Douglas Federal Courthouse in Yakima today after a jury convicted him of two felonies related to the death of Otto Zehm. (SRPhoto/Christopher Anderson)

Breean Beggs, attorney for Otto Zehm's family, said Zehm's mother, Ann, is relieved 'that it's over, and, in her words, the court and legal system saw through what really happened."

"Otto had a huge impact on the people around him, and they wanted to make sure he's not forgotten, and he is not," Beggs said. He said Ann Zehm, whose cousin observed the trial for her, ate a piece of birthday cake for Otto on Monday, which would have been his 42nd birthday.

Zehm's family is not concerned with Karl Thompson's punishment, Beggs said.

"I spoke with Ann today and she said she needed a day to get her thoughts together of what she really thought, but all along she has not spoken as far as punishment really jut about accountability and change," Beggs said.

"This started out, unfortunately as kind of a regular case because people with mental illness die often in Spokane when they interact with law enforcement, but it's turned into…because he was innocent and there was a video…a symbol for what could be changed and what could be better," Beggs said.

Beggs said Zehm "was just an upstanding person" who was not as vulnerable to the typical character attacks police use to justify "these types of deaths."

"We continue to call to the city and the department to repudiate any type of policy that would result in this type of death, and when they do so the community can heal."

Beggs said he expects negotiations in the civil suit to move forward.

He said he was not surprised jurors convicted Thompson.

"I woke up this morning and i had a sense that this was going to happen," Beggs said.

Read this 2006 profile of Otto Zehm: A Life On The Margins

Dead man’s family wants jury inquest

Granville Dodd was home in bed when he got the call.

His younger brother, Quentin Dodd, (right) one of 11 siblings, had been shot in Spokane Valley by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy. It was bad, his family said, but no one knew exactly what happened.

 Dodd soon learned his 50-year-old brother was dead. Nearly one year later, he says he’s still searching for answers to questions he has had since day one.

 Granville Dodd questions the deputy’s account of the shooting, compared to the forensic evidence, and he’s troubled that police portrayed his brother as being high on drugs when an autopsy showed only prescription medication was in Quentin Dodd’s system.

Spokane County prosecutors recently ruled the Oct. 24, 2010, shooting by Deputy Rustin Olson (left) was justified. Olson and another deputy who confronted Dodd that evening told investigators that Dodd wielded a sharp obsidian rock, refused orders to drop it, threatened to stab one of them, then ran toward Olson, prompting the deputy to shoot.

But the Dodd family, through their attorneys, Breean Beggs and Mark Harris, are calling for a closer examination of the case in the form of a jury inquest.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 19: Coroners says inquests offer transparency

Oct. 27: Man killed by deputy had been suicidal

Oct. 26: Family questions fatality

Jail-for-court-debt process sparks suit

After crashing into another car during a police chase in 2001, Spokane resident Lisa Orvis served eight months in jail and was ordered to pay $24,000 restitution.

 A decade of accrued interest later, she owes the county $70,000 and has spent seven or eight stints at the Spokane County Jail for nonpayment.

Orvis doesn’t dispute that she owes the money. But she questions the legal process that put her in jail without a lawyer or a chance to explain herself.

“I never saw a judge, and I never went to any kind of hearing,” said Orvis, 45.

The state Supreme Court ruled that system unconstitutional last summer.

“What they haven’t ruled on is how all the hundreds of people who were jailed unconstitutionally should be compensated,” said Spokane lawyer Breean Beggs.

Beggs filed a complaint against Spokane County this month in U.S. District Court on behalf of Orvis and everyone else jailed under the county’s previous court collection system. A judge will determine whether it can proceed as a class-action suit.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

May 24, 2009: Debt to society

Parents of Tasered bridge jumper file suit

The parents of a mentally ill man who died after jumping from the Monroe Street Bridge three years ago are suing the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for $4.7 million.  

Joshua Levy, a 28-year-old with paranoid schizophrenia, jumped after a standoff with police that began July 26, 2007, and lasted into the next day.

Through lawyer Breean Beggs, Levy’s parents Susan Levy (left) and David Breidenbach, filed suit Monday in federal court against the city and county, as well as Chris Kehl of the Sheriff’s Office and Michael McCasland and Sgt. Sam Yamada of the Spokane police. The suit also includes 10 unnamed defendants.

The suit alleges police never consulted with a psychiatrist recommended by mental health professionals.

Police abandoned a “no hands” policy of dealing with Levy “without obtaining the assent of any of Joshua’s current or former mental health providers or the psychiatrist,” according to the lawsuit.

Levy left the ledge but quickly returned after McCasland deployed a Taser at him. He jumped to his death after he saw Kehl and other officers approaching him.

“David Breidenbach had no warning from either department that their tactics would be changing and thus was watching his son when he was rushed by department members and then jumped to his death,” according to the lawsuit.

Past coverage:

July 27, 2008: Levy’s parents speaking out on suicide

Aug. 2, 2007: Police feared dramatic ending in bridge suicide

July 29, 2007: Jumper’s father questions Taser use

Breean Beggs steps down from Center For Justice…

Good morning, Netizens…

Prior to the arrival of The Center For Justice we, the citizens of Spokane, didn’t really have an advocate in our corner to help us when we ran afoul of the local government or high-end vested interests. Perhaps if the Center for Justice had existed long ago, such malignancies as River Park Square or the travesty of the Otto Zehm and other murders by the Spokane Police Department’s failed policies might never have occurred.

Once the Center for Justice was formed and Breean Beggs assumed the role of chief catalyst, ordinary people had a strong advocate in their corner, a litigator who would fight for the common man, and serve for positive social change.

This week Breean Beggs notified the Center For Justice’s board and staff that he will be submitting his resignation, and thus ending his relationship with the Center. He leaves the door open to various other interests, including assuming public office.

Suffice it to say, we have lost a dynamic, powerful voice for the general public. We can hope that another person will step forward in the vacuum Breean Beggs leaves in his wake.


Beggs to leave Center for Justice

Breean Beggs, the self-described chief catalyst for the public interest law firm Center for Justice, announced his resignation today citing both fewer financial resources at the firm and aspirations for a future run for public office.

Beggs, 47, quickly said he has no public office in mind, especially the already tenacious beginning to the upcoming August primary for Spokane County prosecutor.

“Most of my life that has been my dream,” Beggs said of seeking public office. “I plan to stay in Spokane, raise my kids a little older and look for the right office at the right time. I will take all those issues I learned and take them inside government instead of outside.”

Read Thomas Clouse’s story here.

“Green Morning”

 “The Center for Justice has brought new perspective and fresh air into this town. Before the Center for Justice was established, it seemed to me that there was one dominant public perception and it was hard to fight that, hard to question that, hard to have a different point of view. It was as if a thumb was on the scale. And though you knew something was right in your heart, it was hard to express that. That’s what the Center for Justice has done. It’s changed the equation.”–Councilman Richard Rush.

Well said, Mr. Rush. Yesterday morning DTE had the pleasure of attending “Breakfast For The Environment” and reading journalist extraordinaire Tim Connor’s uncanny report literally by the time we returned to work. We urge you to check the recap HERE.

The event was an educational presentation on the Center’s invaluable Spokane River work and land use decisions. Spokane Riverkeeper Rick Eichstaedt highlighted cases such as toxic algae growth and the Bigelow Gulch road expansion that would impact wetlands. Other presenters included Gonzaga Environmental Law Clinic director Mike Chappell, and Executive Director Breean Beggs.