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Former Spokane Police officer and current federal prison inmate Karl Thompson earlier this month filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of his excessive force conviction in the March 2006 death of Otto Zehm.
The appeal, filed with the nation's highest court Oct. 22, raises a different legal issue than the argument Thompson's attorney, Carl Oreskovich, made earlier this year before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the most recent filing, Thompson says the U.S. District Court improperly allowed evidence in the 2012 trial showing Zehm was innocent of the reported crime that prompted the contact in a Spokane convenience store March 18, 2006.
Store video showed Thompson approaching Zehm and quickly begin striking him with a baton. The filing with the Supreme Court gives Thompson's version of the events. The former officer said multiple commands for Zehm to put down a two-liter Pepsi bottle were made before the blows began, a claim the federal jury who heard the case rejected.
In arguments earlier this year that were later rejected by an appellate court panel, Thompson said his legal team was not provided expert witness statements analyzing the baton strikes in the video that may have changed trial strategy. A trio of appellate judges shot down that claim in June, then the entire panel of justices on the court declined to hear the case en banc later that month.
Thompson's claim this month is known in legal parlance as a “writ of certiorari,” or a formal request for the nine-member Supreme Court panel to review the rulings of a lower court. The Supreme Court receives 10,000 such requests annually and hears between 75 and 80 cases, according to its website.
Zehm, who died two days after the incident with Thompson, would have turned 45 today (Oct. 31, 2014).
Spokane developer Greg Jeffreys, who is jailed on federal charges alleging that he defrauded investors of millions of dollars, has asked a judge for a change of venue for his trial, arguing that local media “has saturated the Spokane area with prejudicial and inflammatory remarks.”
Citing primarily Spokesman-Review coverage, Jeffreys argued that half of the county’s potential jury pool had been tainted with information unrelated to the trial. The motion also cited the case against former Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson, in which Thompson’s trial was moved to Yakima in 2011 after five years of “intense media coverage.” Thompson was found guilty of excessive use of force for his role in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006.
In a response to Jeffreys’ request, the government, through U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby, said claims of a prejudiced jury pool were “wholly overstated” and asked the judge to reject the request.
U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson will hear the request on Sept. 10 at 10 a.m.
The judge will also hear a motion from Jeffreys to suppress evidence, including oral statements from Jeffreys, because they were a “direct result of an illegal search and seizure” of Jeffreys’ 10,000-square-foot home by 24 law enforcement agents on July 19, 2012, as well of Jeffreys’ person when he was arrested at the airport on Jan. 30.
Jeffreys is known for his central role in a development plan of the Ridpath Hotel. He faces 73 felony charges ranging from bank fraud to theft, though none relate to the shuttered downtown high-rise.
After violating previous orders by a judge and threatening a business associate and FBI special agent, Judge Peterson ruled that Jeffreys must remain in jail until his January trial.
Authorities have transferred 65-year-old Karl F. Thompson from the Federal Detention Center Sea-Tac in Seattle to a medium security facility in Arizona, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.
Though he's listed as being located at the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix, Thompson's release date is listed as unknown. He was sentenced Nov. 15 to four years in prison.
The former Spokane police officer was listed as “in transit” as of Friday last week.
It’s a good day, Spokane. There’s no snow in the potholes, the river’s still running and Karl Thompson Jr. is already ensconced in a federal lockup on the other side of the state. Sorry, but you won’t find me joining the gripers and grousers who are sore about the ex-cop getting just 51 months for his unwarranted and vicious attack on Otto Zehm six-plus years ago. I’ve been beating this drum too long for that. I remember too well the lonely days when our do-nothing county prosecutor, Steve Tucker, refused to touch this case as if it were radioactive. I remember, too, that the city’s official and shameful position was that Thompson did nothing wrong and that Zehm was to blame. I was just some kook columnist ranting in the paper about a lost cause and giving away 5,000 Otto buttons to keep people from forgetting. Oh, boy, do I remember/Doug Clark, SR. More here.
Originally posted 5:08 p.m. Thursday
Updated: After being handed a sentence Thursday of more than four years in federal prison – the culmination of six years of investigations, legal action and community soul-searching – former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. walked away passively in handcuffs. U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle admonished the courtroom in advance that demonstrations of any kind would be inappropriate, and the sentence was greeted with silence by both Thompson and Zehm supporters. Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich lost a last-minute plea to keep the decorated officer out of jail pending appeal of his convictions for using excessive force and lying to investigators to cover up his actions/Thomas Clouse, SR. More here.
Question: Was justice served?
U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby, whose office handled the excessive force prosecution of former Spokane police officer Karl Thompson, took deliberate steps Thursday to praise the trustworthiness of the local police force overall.
“That's not an indictment of our entire police department,” Ormsby said just moments after Thompson was ordered to serve more than four years in prison for the fatal 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm. “We have a good police department.”
Although Ormsby still supports calls for an in-depth Justice Department probe of the Spokane police department, he noted that several steps have been taken since Thompson's conviction last year to improve the department's accountability.
He said the city's Use of Force Commission has been asked by Mayor David Condon to not only examine the department's past practices but to recommend a “path forward.” Ormsby said he believes the commission's recommendations, particularly with a City Hall and police department committed to improvement, could go a long way to helping restore community trust in the police force.
For nearly a year, former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. has avoided sentencing on his federal convictions for using excessive force in the beating of Otto Zehm and then lying to investigators about it.
But with yesterday's refusal by U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle to throw out the convictions and order a new trial, as Thompson's defense team had urged, the long-delayed sentencing hearing soon will be rescheduled for a new legal clash: what is the appropriate punishment for a decorated police officer who continues to insist he did nothing wrong even though a jury ruled otherwise?
Van Sickle agreed with Thompson's contention that prosecutors failed to turn over favorable information from a forensic videographer to the defense but the judge concluded the omission was so insignificant that it wouldn't have altered the outcome.
Here's a link to SR reporter Chelsea Bannach's article on Van Sickle's ruling. Bannach was filling in for SR reporter Thomas Clouse, who was on vacation when the ruling was issued.
A federal judge has denied the motion for a new trial for convicted former Spokane Police officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. (pictured). Thompson’s lawyer Carl Oreskovich argued on Aug. 31 that Thompson should receive a new trial because federal prosecutors hid information from the defense that could have won his acquittal. Thompson was convicted by a federal jury in Yakima in November of using excessive force and lying to investigators in the violent 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm, a mentally ill janitor mistakenly identified as a possible thief. Zehm died two days after being beaten, tasered and hog-tied by police in a Spokane convenience store/SR. Developing. (SR file photo)
Question: Anyone remember when Thompson was a captain under former sheriff Pierce Clegg?
Buried in the transcripts unsealed last week of the secret jury hearings held by a federal judge in the Karl F. Thompson Jr. case, was an apparent chance encounter between the jury forewoman and the alternate juror.
Jury Forewoman Diane Riley said she was having an electrical problem at her Ellensburg home and called her utility company. That company sent Donald Finn, who was identified during jury selection, as a line worker who was later determined to be the alternate juror.
Finn told the judge he could find nothing wrong at Riley's home and he seemed to suggest that Riley made the call to give her a chance to convince him that the jury made the right call.
“I said, well, my feelings were it’s just, you know, just a big dog and pony show,” the alternate juror said. “The guy passed away at the scene, Karl had to pay for it. And I said that’s kind of the way I saw it.”
Riley said as soon as Finn recognized her, he started inquiriing about the jury's decision to convict Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his 2006 encounter with Otto Zehm.
“He started asking questions about it, and … he expressed then how he had been agitated and angry that the jury found Mr. Thompson guilty,” Riley said. “He felt the witnesses were fake, paid dog and pony show, and that he didn’t believe anything that any of them said.”
Riley said she told Finn that he was not part of the deliberations and all the discussions the jurors had. She added that she’d learned information from an author about alleged past transgressions by Thompson.
During the May 23 hearing, U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle asked Riley about what the author told her. “Is this relevant?” she asked.
“I’m not trying to trick you. I’m really not. And you’re not in any way on the hot seat,” Van Sickle said. “I’m just trying to gather information, to be honest with you, and this is the right way to do it that I’m aware of.”
New documents released Thursday show that the only person who raised issues about juror misconduct in the trial that convicted former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. was an alternate juror who was not privy to the final deliberations.
U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle called for the secret hearings in May after attorneys learned that the alternate juror told a court security officer that jurors improperly discussed the case prior to deliberations that resulted in the Nov. 2 conviction.
“I thought the government put up a terrible case. Horrible,” said the alternate juror, whose name was redacted. “I thought they got it wrong.”
The forewoman of the jury that convicted former Spokane Police officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of excessive force said in a letter to a federal judge that defense attorneys have twisted her words in their effort to force a new trial for the decorated officer.
The documents are contained in files previously sealed by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle.
Federal prosecutors appear to be growing frustrated with the ongoing delays that have kept convicted Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. out of prison.
Eight months have passed since a jury convicted Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators in the 2006 fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm, an unarmed janitor erroneously implicated in a possible theft. But court-ordered delays have postponed sentencing indefinitely as he seeks a new trial.
A $1.67 million out-of-court settlement has been reached in the civil suit against Spokane police filed by relatives of Otto Zehm, the mentally ill janitor who died following a violent confrontation with officers after being mistakenly implicated in a possible theft.
The deal also includes a formal apology by city officials, a recommendation to the Spokane Park Board to name a pavilion after Zehm, crisis intervention training for all police officers and $50,000 for a consultant to advise the city about updates to its use-of-force policy.
Spokane law enforcement officials for the first time are compiling a list of officers and deputies who have a record of lying or who have been discredited while doing their jobs.
The so-called “Brady list” is part of a legal requirement to notify defense lawyers of any information that could be used to challenge the credibility of investigators.
A federal judge has set a two-day mediation session to settle the $14.5 million civil suit filed against nine Spokane Police officers by the mother and estate of Otto Zehm.
U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko issued an order directing the Zehm family attorneys, City Attorney Nancy Isserlis and lawyers representing the city’s insurance carrier to meet on May 14 and 15. The parties apparently have agreed to allow U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan from Oregon to oversee those mediation sessions.
U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle agreed to another delay Friday in the sentencing of former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr.
Van Sickle agreed to a request by attorney Dutch Wetzel who is representing video forensic expert Grant Fredericks, who caused the delay when he contacted the judge to allege that federal prosecutors mischaracterized his expected testimony in the trial last fall in which Thompson was convicted of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his confrontation with Otto Zehm.
Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich has claimed prosecutorial misconduct because he says Fredericks’ unused testimony could have helped defend Thompson. Federal prosecutors have argued that Fredericks’ claims are baseless and he has offered misleading testimony in other cases.
Van Sickle instructed Wetzel to prepare a summary of any materials Fredericks might have that would help him decide. Van Sickle scheduled another status conference for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to get an update on Wetzel’s progress.
The forensic videographer whose allegations of prosecutorial misconduct have indefinitely stalled the sentencing of former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. is depicted in new court documents as an attention-seeking police apologist who lied to federal investigators.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed filed scores of pages Friday detailing the pre-trial and post-trial dealings with forensic video expert Grant Fredericks, who approached U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle with concerns only after a jury convicted Thompson in November of using excessive force and lying to investigators to cover-up the 2006 fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm.
Federal obstruction charges are expected to be filed soon against two more Spokane police officers in connection with the city’s handling of the Otto Zehm investigation, which U.S. Department of Justice officials have called an “extensive cover-up.”
Attorneys representing Officers Sandra McIntyre and Tim Moses both confirmed Thursday that they have entered discussions with federal prosecutors about the potential charges relating to their clients’ testimony during the investigation into Zehm’s death.
Four or five other customers were ahead of me when I sauntered into the convenience store on Sunday’s sunny afternoon. No worries. Despite the Zip Trip name on the signage, I hadn’t come here on a speed run. After scanning the aisles a moment, I grabbed what I had come for. Then I took my place at the end of the checkout line with goods in tow: One 2-liter plastic bottle of Diet Pepsi. Check. One Snickers candy bar. Check. Hardly the breakfast of champions. But it seemed like the right way to mark the sixth anniversary of Otto Zehm’s final and ultimately fatal visit to this small Spokane trading post at 1712 N. Division. March 18, 2006. Never forget/Doug Clark, SR. More here. (SR photo: Snickers candy bars, flowers and 2-liter bottles of Pepsi Cola were left curbside in November in front of the Zip Trip on Division Street at Augusta Avenue)
Question: How closely have you followed the Otto Zehm story?
A federal judge Friday granted a request by the attorney for former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. 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.
To understand why the Spokane Police Department’s use-of-force training is under a microscope, consider this disconnect: Although the state’s top police trainer concluded that the fatal 2006 confrontation with unarmed janitor Otto Zehm was indefensible, the department’s own instructors and the city’s legal advisers have insisted that Spokane police officers were justified and handled the encounter appropriately.
Here is how Spokane police Officer Terry Preuninger, a department training instructor (pictured), defended Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr.’s decision to beat and shock the retreating Zehm: “If the officer believes that they were in danger, then that use of force would be authorized,” Preuninger told a federal jury in October, adding that there doesn’t have to be a “factual basis” for the officer’s fear of harm.
Also check out this profile on new interim police chief Scott Stephens.
A jury has convicted a Spokane man of felony harassment for threatening to kill a Spokane police officer.
Rudy Ray Cordova, 38, was acquitted of fourth-degree domestic assault, which is the suspected crime that brought him in contact with Officer Chris McMurtrey.
Cordova's lawyer, Doug Phelps, questioned McMurtrey at trial about his support for Officer Karl Thompson and pointed out that McMurtrey said he feared Cordova in part because of his felony convictions. Phelps emphasized that Thompson was a convicted felon, too, but McMurtrey didn't fear him.
It apparently didn't sway jurors, who returned the guilty verdict on Thursday. Cordova is now awaiting sentencing on the felony harassment charge.
McMurtrey had arrested Cordova on suspicion of domestic violence assault Feb. 26 when Cordova told him, “That’s how people died, by taking the wrong people to jail…Don’t worry. I’ll get out tomorrow and find out where you guys live. I’ve been to prison,” according to court testimony.
A Spokane police officer who says he feared for his life after being threatened by a felon was asked in court Wednesday about supportive comments he posted on a Facebook page in support of another convicted felon – former Officer Karl Thompson.
Defense lawyer Doug Phelps questioned Officer Chris McMurtrey’s contention that 38-year-old Rudy Ray Cordova’s prior convictions for violent crimes were a cause for concern, noting that Thompson has been convicted of a violent crime, too.
And now for the latest in legalized leg pulling. Ex-Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson Jr. has “accepted responsibility” for pounding Otto Zehm to pulp in 2006 and lying to investigators afterward to cover his slimy hide. Or so the Thompson shysters claim. Gee, Karl. Too bad you didn’t have this “come to Jesus” moment a few years back. Could’ve saved the public all the expense and bother of holding a federal trial. You know, the one in Yakima last fall that found you GUILTY as hell. This is just another Hail Mary ploy by the defense, of course. The goal this time is to get Thompson a discount on the already woefully thin amount of prison time he has coming/Doug Clark, SR. More here.
Question: You be the judge. What would you do with this latest attempt by Karl Thompson's defense team to win a new trial in the fatal beating of Otto Zehm?
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.
A federal judge Monday again ruled that government prosecutors provided enough evidence to allow a jury to convict former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of using excessive force on Otto Zehm.
As he did during the four-week trial in Yakima, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle denied a motion brought by defense attorneys who argued that federal prosecutors did not provide evidence showing that Thompson acted willfully or with a bad purpose when he beat Zehm with a baton and shocked him with a Taser.
A judge has denied a request by former Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson’s attorney’s to interview the jurors who convicted him last month of two felonies in connection with the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.
U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle said in a 10-page order filed Tuesday that no evidence exists to support the request, which lawyers Carl Oreskovich and Courtney Garcea said was essential to their preparations for a request for a new trial.
“The Court repeatedly instructed jurors to ignore media accounts of the trial,” Van Sickle wrote. “Thus, to the extent jurors were exposed to such accounts, the Court is satisfied they ignored them.”
Police officers who saluted Officer Karl F. Thompson in a federal courtroom earlier this month have received more official criticism.
The Spokane City Council on Monday voted unanimously to denounce the “courtroom behavior” of the nearly 50 officers who honored Thompson as he was led out of a hearing on his way to jail after being found guilty of two felony charges related to the police confrontation with Otto Zehm, a Spokane man who died as a result of injuries he suffered in the confrontation in 2006.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, Mayor-elect David Condon and Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich have also denounced the officers’ salute, which was done in the presence of Zehm family members.
The nonbinding resolution, which was sponsored by Councilman Jon Snyder, also voiced support for the creation of a citizens’ panel, led by a former Gonzaga Law School dean, to examine the city’s handling of the legal matters associated with the case and Verner’s request to the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Police Department’s policies and procedures.
Karl Thompson's lawyers say jury forewoman Diane Riley's statements to media this week are further evidence of the need to examine whether outside information was considered in deliberations.
Riley told The Spokesman-Review no jurors considered information not presented at trial when the convicted Thompson of excessive force and lying to investigators, but she also said a juror knew someone who lived in Spokane and that politics here are corrupt and dirty.”
“The fact that the allegedly 'corrupt' or 'dirty' politics of Spokane was discussed during jury deliberations is particularly alarming given the fact that the jury made its determination regarding Defendant Thompson's guilt based upon its belief that 'everybody felt 100 percent that this was a police cover-up,” lawyer Courtney Garcea wrote in a declaration filed today. “Whether there was or was not a police cover-up was not an issue to ever be considered by the jury.”
Garcea points to Riley's comment that “most of us had never heard of this case” as acknowledging that outside information such as Zehm's mental illness or his purported innocence could have been considered.
She also points to statements Riley made to KREM 2 news that jurors suspected Otto Zehm may have been disabled by looking at photos of him as a sign that jurors improperly considered that information when reaching the verdict.
She also points to Riley's statement that Zehm was taken from this Earth “because of the mistake and bad judgment of another man.”
In order to convict Thompson of using excessive force, jurors had to find that he acted with bad or evil intent. Garcea says Riley's statement shows the jury erred in convicting Thompson, and that they inaccurately believed Thompson caused Zehm's death.
Judge Fred Van Sickle has not yet ruled on the request by defense attorneys that jurors be questioned about their deliberations.
Also this week, Thompson's lawyers filed a motion for him to be acquitted, saying the government failed to prove its case.
The written motion, which seeks a hearing on Dec. 19, is essentially the same motion attorney Carl Oreskovich unsuccessful argued during the four-week trial in Yakima.
Thompson faces several years in prison at his sentencing scheduled for Jan. 27.
Spokane police Officer Tim Moses has resigned as a public information officer at the advice of his lawyer.
Moses, who told jurors at Karl Thompson's trial that the FBI intimidated him into giving false incriminating testimony to a grand jury, has been “under a lot of fire” lately, said lawyer Chris Bugbee.
“I'd like to see him keep his head down,” Bugbee said. “There's a lot going on right now and I don't think that he needs to be the one that's making official statements for either the police department or the Guild right now.”
Moses, well known by media for his jovial attitude and sense of humor, will remain one of two Guild vice presidents, Bugbee said. He will continue to work as a patrol officer.
“I think he's a great officer,” Bugbee said.
Bugbee said he suggested the resignation to Moses on Tuesday after he was quoted in a Spokesman-Review story about Mayor Mary Verner requesting the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the police department.
“I think he realizes the public at this point is looking closely at all of the officers that were involved so he'd like to stand back a little bit and let somebody else take that responsibility,” Bugbee said. “The public has strong opinions about him.”
Bugbee said Moses is not the subject of a grand jury investigation.
The forewoman of the jury that convicted Thompson told The Spokesman-Review this week that Moses' testimony was pivotal in convincing them the case was a vast police cover-up. Bugbee talked with Moses about resigning as PIO before the article was published.
Moses was given a letter of immunity before testifying at Thompson's trial. He said he gave false statements to the grand jury regarding Thompson saying he hit Otto Zehm in the head and neck with a police baton - which would constitute unlawful lethal force - because the FBI intimidated him.
Thompson's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, told jurors that the FBI had Moses wrapped around an axle. Bugbee said Moses never meant to mislead anyone.
“I know Tim just got himself in a corner, and he's getting some public criticism over it,” Bugbee said.
Moses has long criticized media coverage of the Thompson case, but Bugbee said today that his resignation for a position dedicated to dealing with the media is not fueled by anger.
“He and I discussed it and he was leaning toward continuing to do it, but I pointed out that maybe, out of respect for some of these strong perceptions in the public right now, maybe it would be the best thing to give it up for a while,” Bugbee said. “And that really was a driving reason.”
“I think he appreciates that the public does have strong feelings, and maybe now he's just become a little too well known in reference to these recent events and it's time to step back,” Bugbee continued.