Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Just as he promised last week after the sentencing, the attorney for convicted Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. filed notice today that he intends to appeal several aspects of the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Thompson last week to 51 months in federal prison for using excessive force and lying to investigators about his confrontation in 2006 with Otto Zehm. The mentally disabled janitor died two days after the struggle in which he suffered 13 baton strikes and several shocks with a Taser.
Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich filed his notice today indicating that Thompson will challenge the decisions by Van Sickle to deny the motion for release pending appeal; his order refusing to dismiss the case; his refusal to order a new trial and several other rulings.
Thompson, 65, remains incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center – Sea Tac in Seattle, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Read previous coverage here.
In addition to revelations that Spokane Police detectives were feeding information about the Zehm investigation to Officer Karl F. Thompson, Jr., the grand jury testimony of Detective Jeff Harvey had several other insights into how the Spokane Police handled the case.
Harvey was a vice president of the Spokane Police Guild when he was subpoenaed to testify in March 2009 before the grand jury investigating the March 18, 2006, beating of mentally disabled Otto Zehm, who later died from the incident.
Harvey testified that he spoke with a forensics employee who had spoken to Detective Mark Burbridge, who investigated the Zehm confrontation along with former Detective Terry Ferguson.
Burbridge showed the forensics employee a video of the Zehm confrontation and Burbridge “had drawn the conclusion that it appeared that the officers were following policy and procedure,” Durkin said, reading Harvey’s notes.
Harvey also testified about a call he took on March 18, 2006, from Sgt. Dan Torok, who was one of several officers who responded to Thompson’s call for help in restraining Zehm.
Harvey said Torok “had concerns that detectives were not following our critical incident protocol. They were asking way too many questions of the officers at the time of the incident.”
Harvey said the officers believed they should be given 48 hours before answering questions about the Zehm confrontation.
Torok and other officers indicated that they wanted an attorney at the same time Spokane Police officials were telling the public that Zehm “attacked” and “lunged” at Thompson, who used the least amount of force necessary to subdue Zehm.
Harvey’s notes show that he spoke to Ernie Wuthrich, the current guild president, at about 1 a.m. on the night of the incident.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin asked Harvey about a reference in his notes about setting something up for Tuesday after the Zehm confrontation.
“Tuesday morning we were going to circle the wagons, so to speak, get things together and figure out what’s going on,” Harvey said.
Tuesday would have been three days after the confrontation, which is when Officer Jason Uberuaga told the same grand jury that several officers were called into a room with a union attorney to fill out their incident reports about the Zehm confrontation.
UPDATE: Potluck for Thompson canceled.
Officer John Gately just called Friday afternoon to say that the Nov. 3 event “An Evening with Karl” F. Thompson Jr. has been canceled.
“It was never intended to offend anyone,” Gately said. “It's canceled.”
HERE'S THE ORIGINAL POST:
Most of the officers who belong to the Spokane Police Guild have been invited to attend “An Evening with Karl” at the home of an officer and her husband, who is also union vice president.
While the Nov. 3 event for former officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. is not union sanctioned, Assistant Chief Scott Stephens said he worries that the event may counter efforts to rebuild trust in the police department following the department’s handling of the investigation of the Otto Zehm confrontation and Thompson's conviction in federal court.
“Our goal is to have behavior consistent with enhancing and rebuilding public trust and confidence in the department,” Stephens said. The scheduled event “could potentially harm that. I would hope that officers would keep that goal in mind in all of their actions.”
Officer Kellee Gately is hosting the event with her husband, Officer John Gately, in their home. She said she obtained approval to hand out the fliers in the inter-departmental mail system. She said Thompson just recently celebrated a birthday, but did not elaborate on the purpose of the event.
Guild president Ernie Wuthrich said no union funds will be used for what he described essentially has a potluck.
“It’s a private deal, even though I believe every (Guild) member was invited,” said Wuthrich, who said he won't attend because of a scheduling conflict.
Asked if he was concerned about community reaction, he said, “I would hope that the community would remember that anybody convicted of a crime still has friends and family and people who care about them and want the best for them. You can’t eliminate the human factor in any of these things.”
The defense attorneys of former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. have blamed a faulty email program for missing the deadline last Friday to file any objections to the pre-sentence report that could become the last major legal battle prior to sentencing.
Thompson was convicted on Nov. 2, 2011, of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his confrontation on March 18, 2006, with Otto Zehm. The original sentencing date of Jan. 27 has been delayed as attorneys continue to argue every aspect of the case.
But on Sept. 21, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle set a deadline of 4 p.m. on Oct. 5 for both sides to file objections to the pre-sentence report.
Federal prosecutors missed the deadline by about four-and-a-half hours, but did file its request Friday night asking that the judge to sentence Thompson to 10 years.
The Spokesman-Review sent an e-mail to Oreskovich at 6:10 p.m. Friday asking whether he would file any arguments. He finally responded at 1:03 a.m. Saturday, writing: “I filed objections many months ago.”
But on Monday, Oreskovich wrote in a pleading, under the penalty of perjury, that his office has been experiencing problems with its Microsoft Outlook program and as a result didn’t receive a notice of the pending deadline.
“During the late-evening hours of Friday … I was checking my email when I came across an email from Spokesman Review reporter Tom Clouse he sent at 6:15 p.m. inquiring whether I would be filing any objection to the Presentence Report,” Oreskovich wrote. “This was the first I was aware that anything was due that day.”
He then asked for a week extension to file those documents.
On Wednesday, Judge Van Sickle ruled that because Oreskovich “demonstrated good cause for the relief requested,” he extended the deadline until noon on Friday.
Jurors in the excessive force trial of Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. apparently are bothered by the lack of information about Otto Zehm being allowed in the trial.
U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle disclosed today that he received a letter from the jury advising they want more information about Zehm, the schizophrenic janitor who died following a violent 2006 encounter with Spokane police officers after being mistakenly identified as a suspect in a possible theft.
Although the specific letter was not disclosed in court, Van Sickle said he wouldn't be granting the jury's request, specifically anything that would show Zehm had not committed a crime when he was confronted by police nor was he high on drugs as some had speculated. Van Sickle has barred any mention in front of jurors of Zehm's innocence or toxicology reports showing no illegal drugs in his system.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed pleaded with Van Sickle to essentially give the jury what it wants.
“Several witnesses have indicated that Mr. Zehm was high on drugs,” Ahmed said. “The United States has to have some way of rebutting that besides just remaining silent.”
Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich told Van Sickle his earlier rulings should remain in place.
“We are at a point in the case where we are putting on our last day,” Oreskovich said. “I understand the jurors have questions. But to put evidence in based on a juror question is inappropriate.”
Good morning, Netizens…
Everyone in the Spokane News Media yesterday were separately and yet together beating their spoons against the bars that, until then, had kept the news media from truly knowing what was going on in the Otto Zehm murder investigation. For nearly two years all anyone in Spokane knew for fact was that Otto Zehm died at the hands of the police, and that there were horrid pictures of Karl F. Thompson, Jr. wailing on Zehm with his nightstick while Zehm lay on the floor; meanwhile we have the squad of officers standing outside the Zip Trip in the aftermath.
Then last Friday Howard F. Delaney, City Attorney and Rocco N. Treppiedi, his Assistant, filed a response to a civil lawsuit brought against the City of Spokane by the Center for Justice, who represent Otto Zehm’s mother in a lawsuit claiming Zehm’s civil rights were violated because of the unlawful use of deadly force in apprehending him, and in the city’s subsequent actions to “falsely portray” Zehm as the aggressor in the encounter. (Portions from the Center for Justice’s website.)
Yesterday, a day that will live long past this time in Spokane history, Federal Prosecutor Jim McDevitt made public the grand jury indictment. In it two felony indictments against police officer Karl F. Thompson, Jr. were unfurled before the news media that on or about March 18, 2006, Karl F. Thompson not only beat Zehm viciously with his baton and tasering him, thus inflicting bodily injury to Zehm, and (count 2) that on March 27, 2006, Thompson then knowingly gave false testimony to investigators.
You can read the entire indictment here http://cforjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/indictment.pdf again, courtesy of the Center for Justice.
According to McDevitt’s statements at the press conference, the reference to giving false testimony refers to a lengthy interview of Thompson by an investigating Spokane Police Department detective whose name was not mentioned.
“What it looks like in hindsight,” the Center for Justice’s Breean Beggs said, when asked about it Monday, “is that the city knew this indictment was coming and did its best to get out a public relations story, trashing Otto, in the papers before readers knew about the indictment.”
As in nearly all cases of this stature, until Karl Thompson’s trial, there have been more unanswered questions to be resolved than there are hard answers. For example:
Given this was a sealed Grand Jury indictment, when were the Spokane City Attorneys told of its contents? Was it before what I believe to be the ill-fated, defamatory and false counter-suit against the Zehm family? It would seem so, given Rocco Treppiedi’s long and illuminating history of counter-suing anyone who files a claim against the City of Spokane, that seems credible enough. Do we know enough to prove it? No.
References are made to an investigator for the Spokane Police Department who interviewed Thompson which resulted in Count Two of the indictment. Of course, until Thompson’s trial, we may never know the named of this brave soul who probably sacrificed his career in the SPD in exchange for justice.
If the second count of the indictment is upheld by the court trial, yesterday why did Police Chief Ann Kirkpatrick wax euphorically about what a good cop Thompson has been for 37 years? Is she blithering daffy or simply trying to muster her troops under fire? Which is it?
If you have read the Center for Justice’s web link (above) then you know Karl F. Thompson, Jr. is facing some pretty serious jail time if convicted of the two felonies. Along the path between now and trial, it could make or break the careers of several local attorneys. There are a lot more questions than answers, but what remains to be seen is can the Spokane Police Department learn from their mistakes and restore the public’s trust?
That seems to be most of the issues that leap out at me.
Portions of this text and the picture of McDevitt all courtesy of The Center for Justice (http://cforjustice.org/) with our gracious thanks.
Good afternoon, Netizens…
Office Karl Thompson has been indicted for various charges, including making false statements in the Otto Zehm case it was announced at 3:00 PM today by US Attorney Jim McDevitt. Details to follow.