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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

Bugbee: Moses didn’t cover anything up

After a press conference in the U.S. Courthouse in Spokane, Otto Zehm's family members, Dale Zehm, center, with his wife, Sandy, thank U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby, far left, following the jury's conviction of Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson. (SRPhoto/Colin Mulvany)

 Attorney Chris Bugbee, who represents Spokane police Officer Tim Moses, said his reaction to the jury's conviction of Karl Thompson today was “the same reaction as everybody.”

“It's shocking to see a police officer who we trust to protect us being convicted of this crime, regardless of how you see the case,” Bugbee said. “I'm sad for the community but I'm glad it has been resolved one way or the other.”

 Moses, who was granted immunity for his testimony during Thompson's trial, told jurors he was manipulated by the FBI into wrongly telling a grand jury that Thompson had said he'd hit Otto Zehm in the neck, head and upper torso with a police baton. Medics included that information in a report and said Moses told them it came from Thompson.

“I don't think Tim attempted to lie or mislead or participate in a coverup,” Bugbee said today.

Bugbee said when Moses watched video of himself at the Zip Trip that night with investigators before his grand jury testimony, “he kind of was misled and said 'well it must have been me if you guys say it was me,'” Bugbee said. “He shouldn't have. he kind of set aside his own thinking and allowed his trust in the FBI to take over.”

Bugbee said he doesn't know if the jury's verdict says anything about their view of Moses's credibility.

“I think the video alone was the powerful piece of evidence the government had,” Bugbee said. “I can understand the conviction seeing the video.”

He said jurors often don't consider witness testimony if there's an issue with credibility.

“They'll just disregard the testimony if there's other evidence they can decide the case on,” Bugbee said.

U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby said at a press conference today that he couldn't confirm or deny if an investigation is ongoing. Though prosecutors said in trial that the Spokane Police Department “whitewashed” the Zehm investigation, Ormsby said Thompson's conviction does not reflect on other officers.

Bugbee said this afternoon that he doesn't expect Moses to face charges. He said prosecutors seemed to understand what had happened when they granted Moses immunity.

He said Moses, as a patrol officer, has little experience with interrogations and reacted as many people do afterward.

 “They feel like they were given a sense of trust that didn't exist and they were taken advantage of” Bugbee said. “Tim felt like he was taken advantage of, and in some sense, he probably was because that's the nature of an interrogation in a felony investigation.”

“I think Tim Moses was doing everything he could to be honest and truthful, and I really think he felt like he was getting taken advantage of.”

Bugbee said little is known about the government's ongoing obstruction of justice investigation, other than a target letter sent to Officer Sandy McIntyre, who was the first officer to review the surveillance video and see that Zehm never lunged at Thompson as police first alleged.

“I hope they're careful in who they decide to prusue in keeping in midn taht the community also has an interest t in putting this behind us,” Bugbee said. “The jury certainly believes that Mr. Zehm's rights were violated, and i hope that the community's satisfied with the conviction of Officer Thompson.”

Thompson Guilty On Both Counts

A jury has convicted Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of needlessly beating Otto Zehm and then lying about it to cover up his actions. The verdict comes five years and seven months since Zehm’s life ended and growing questions of police accountability began. Prosecutors are expected to seek a prison term of six to eight years, arguing that Thompson was in a position of trust and that Zehm, who was schizophrenic, was particularly vulnerable. … Despite the criminal conviction, Thompson, 64, was allowed to remain free pending a follow up hearing before a magistrate in Spokane to argue continued release conditions. He posted a $50,000 signature bond following the criminal indictment in 2009/Thomas Clouse, SR. More here.

Reaction to verdict?

What will happen to Karl Thompson?

Federal prosecutors are expected to ask U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to immediately detain Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. if the jury convicts him of using unreasonable force.

The detention request is mandatory for all violent crimes. However, defense attorney Carl Oreskovich is expected to ask Van Sickle to keep Thompson out of jail until sentencing.

If the jury acquits Thompson, his status with Spokane Police Department remains up to administrators. Assistant Police Chief Jim Nicks already has told federal authorities he believes Thompson violated several departmental use-of-force policies but the judge ruled his conclusions inadmissable at Thompson's criminal trial. Additionally, Thompson acknowledged on the witness stand that he made errors in his statement to detectives four days after the March 18, 2006, confrontation with Otto Zehm.

Either way, though, Oreskovich said during his closing argument that at 64 now, Thompson's law enforcement career is over.

If the jury hangs, federal prosecutors must decide whether to attempt another trial after attorneys spent years preparing for this and have worked nights averaging about four hours of sleep.

Honorable man or SPD whitewash?

Before closing arguments today in the excessive force trial of Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson, lawyers debated the addition of two crucial jury instructions: one regarding Otto Zehm's right to defend himself against unlawful force and the other regarding the need for Thompson to be acting willfully to be convicted of depriving Zehm of his civil rights.

Both instructions were mentioned in closings arguments.

 Federal prosecutor Victor Boutros said Zehm had the right to kick Thompson in the groin if he wanted to stop the unlawful force, but he chose not to. Instead, he defended himself with a pop bottle simply by placing it over his face to try to protect it from baton strikes.

Boutros said Thompson, 64, (pictured) continued to disgrace his badge by lying about the March 18, 2006, incident.

“At that point he thinks Detective (Theresa) Ferguson is going to whitewash this thing and what happens? She does,” Boutros said, who also said Officer Tim Moses and Thompson lied to jurors about the alleged discussion of head blows the night of the incident. Boutros questioned why Moses would be fearful of the FBI recording him at an off-site meeting after his grand jury testimony - testimony he refuted at trial - if he was just telling the truth.

Boutros said the defense has tried to focus on the 'lunge' phrase not being used by Thompson (Moses told jurors he 'coined it'), but the real focus should be on the meaning of the word: Thompson said that night that Zehm came at him, and though he told jurors he tried to correct it, he never did so.

 Boutros said Thompson figured no one compared the video to his March 22 statement, which doesn't include anything about the lunge but doesn't mention Zehm taking a “boxing stance.” Boutros also questioned why Thompson didn't say anything about the lunge misstatement in that interview if he was so concerned about correcting it.

Boutros essentially took the defense's argument about not applying 20/20 hindsight to Thompson's actions and made it his own by saying the only one who used 20/20 hindsight was Thompson when he lied about what happened to cover his actions.

He said Thompson tried to “hide behind the shelf” of the Zip Trip by saying everything that justified his use of force happened outside of view. But jurors get to peer behind the shelf, Boutros said, through the eye witnesses who say Zehm never got up and took a boxing stance, and only struggled in pain.

“He counted on his police department to whitewash his misconduct, and it did,” Boutros said. “But now he is in a room where the law will not be ignored.”

“This is a tragic and terrible story, but it is not over yet,” Boutros continued, telling the jurors they get to “write the final chapter.”

“No one gets special treatment. Not even police officers,” Boutros told jurors. “You get the final word, and the final word is guilty.”

Oreskovich focused on the “willfull” requirement needed to convict Thompson and said even if jurors think Thompson was mistaken in his use of force, that doesn't mean they can convict.

“The government has to show you that he acted with a bad or evil purpose..” Oreskovich said. “Not that he went in there as a police officer to try to detain someone.”

Oreskovich said Thompson “was there to do one thing: Be a police officer.”

“When you look at the man you are judging you can stop right there and say 'that is a doubt,'” Oreskovich said. “This is an honorable man. A man who has fought for his country. A man who has been a good police officer for 42 years.”

Oreskovich called Thompson “someone who is respected. Someone who is a thinker. Someone who is not rash…someone who understands things and tries to make them better” for both police officers and citizens.

He mentioned Thompson's life-saving award and the petition by his fellow officer for him to be police chief in 2006.

“That's the man they want to say is a liar creating a 'web of lies.'” Oreskovich said.

“Just stop and think for a moment - does this look like the resume of a man who's going to act with bad intent?”

Oreskvoch reminded jurors that Thompson was on a dinner break filling out a report about a gun call to which he'd just responded.

When Thompson heard the call regarding Zehm, “What does our officer do? What does our liar do?” Oreskovich asked. Thompson went to his car and checked the dispatch log for more information.

“Those are the actions of a man who's doing the job that we want him to do,” Oreskovich told jurors. “Is it somewhere between the cop shop and the Zip Trip that he gets this bad evil purpose?…You know that didn't happen.”

Oreskovich said people who aren't in that situation can question Thompson's action afterward, but, “If those were my children standing at the counter…what I want is this man to go in there.”

Oreskovich said Thompson is the only witness whose statement was not tainted by the video. He spoke of a “boxing stance” in the March 22, 2006, because that's how he remembered it happening.
Oreskovich told jurors that Thomspon had “just learned about Otto Zehm's death right before” the interview and reminded them Thompson had told them it had an emotional effect on him and was a profound tragey.
Oreskovich called Thompson”a man who stands for something. Stands for something so much his own employees wanted him to be police chief.”
“This man has lived all of his life…to make life better. To save lives,” Oreskovich said of Thompson.
You “cannot second guess this type of decision making,” Oreskovich told jurors. “This is an innocent man doing his best. We should not be here in a criminal court of law.”

In rebuttal, Boutros said he surprised how little was said about what Thompson did during the fatal encounter. He said Zehm never knew why he was hit and we may never know either.

He pointed to how Officer Steve Braun calmly responded to the call as a sign Thompson used excessive force.

The defense says he was just doing his job, but “His job was not to go in and beat an unarmed man who posed no threat.”

Boutros said the defense has created hypothetical cause of head injuries by suggesting Zehm hit his head on shelves, but that's not corroborated at all by testimony.

Regarding Thompson's statement to Ferguson, Boutros said he wasn't forgetting things- he was adding them. He wasn't getting things out of order - he was “making stuff up.”

“Are people going to jail because statements are as wrong as this one?” Boutros said, questioning what happens in far more serious cases with real deadly weapons.

He told jurors to not “forget what happened to Mr. Zehm” and spoke of the pain and terror he felt while being beaten. 

Boutros also reminded jurors that Zehm's last reported words were “I only wanted a Snickers.”

Today would have been Zehm's 42nd birthday. Jurors were not told of that fact.

Zehm: No video allowed in jury room

Jurors are hearing instructions before closing arguments begin. Get minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom here.

When jurors began deliberations in the excessive force trial of Officer Karl Thompson, they won't be able to review the surveillance video of his fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm without first notifying the court.

Jurors are to review the video and any other electronic evidence such as photos in open court with prosecutors and defense lawyers present.

Jurors had requested a way to better view the video during deliberations. Defense lawyer Carl Oreskovich objected, saying this morning that he was worried about “someone controlling the flow of the information and doing it perhaps improperly” if jurors had free access to electronic playback equipment in the deliberation room.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin said the technology requested was reasonable.

“I'm not going to call it the new age, because it's certainly not new. It's been around 15, 20 years,” Durkin said.  “We have a very intelligent jury panel” including man with PhD in chemistry and others with advanced degrees.

Durkin continued,  “For us to turn back to a time” and make jurors view evidence in court would “place a significant chill” on deliberations.

U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle said the request just wasn't fair or feasible, though he prefaced his ruling by saying, “I regard myself as a digital immigrant, but I have made every effort to progress.”

The surveillence video is available here.

Zehm closing arguments set for Monday

The case against Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. should be in the jury's hands by Monday afternoon, which would have been Otto Zehm's 42nd birthday.

Thompson, the first officer to confront Zehm following a mistaken report of a possible theft in 2006, is accused of using excessive force and lying to investigators about the fatal encounter. Zehm died two days later after being beaten with a baton, shocked with Tasers and hogtied.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Monday morning.

You can follow real-time highlights of the courtroom drama at Tracking the Trial, the SR's aggregated online Twitter feed.

Karl Thompson’s testimony resumes today

Karl Thompson is back on the stand right now as prosecutors finish cross examination. Get minute-by-minute updates here.

Thompson's testimony began Thursday:

YAKIMA – After more than five years of videotape review and federal allegations of a police coverup, Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. on Thursday explained his actions against Otto Zehm before a jury.

In his first public comments since his statement to detectives four days after the March 18, 2006, confrontation with Zehm, Thompson gave new justifications for his use of force that day and acknowledged that he erred in some of his descriptions of how he struck Zehm with a baton and Tasered him during a prolonged struggle.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Terry Ferguson testifes in Zehm case

Get minute-by-minute updates from the coutroom here.

A retired Spokane police detective who found no evidence that Officer Karl Thompson used excessive force when confronting Otto Zehm testified as a witness for the defense Thursday, but her most memorable testimony came on cross examination.

Defense lawyer Carl Oreskovich didn't get much from questioning Theresa “Terry” Ferguson (pictured) after U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle prohibited her from discussing Thompson's statements to her because of hearsay concerns from prosecutors.

Oreskovich asked Ferguson if she had a follow up discussion with Thompson on March 27 and discussed the “lunge” claim, but Ferguson wasn't allowed to answer. Oreskovich ended questioning, and prosecutor Victor Boutros proceeded to tear into Ferguson's investigation of the case in cross examination.

Boutros first asked Ferguson if her role as an investigators”was not to be an advocate for the defendant,” which she said was correct. Defense attorneys objected to the line of questioning, but a witness's credibility can be called into question on cross examination and Boutros was allowed to proceed.

Boutros asked Ferguson, “You can't prosecute someone who's dead, is that true?” Ferguson said yes, but she can investigate the crime, which is what she was doing when she called Zehm an assault suspect. Boutros focused on the two-hour, off-the-record “pre-interview”

He asked if Thompson said in that interview that Zehm just “maybe” had gotten the girls' money, that Thompson said he could have disengaged Zehm before shocking him with a Taser, and that he was using his baton to keep his distance from Zehm.

“What I don't recall are specific words but obviously that's what was said because it's in my notes,” Ferguson said.

Boutros asked Ferguson about recommending Spokane County prosecutors not charge Thompson. Ferguson said she did not make a recommendation one way or another on charges.

“I did not discourage them from doing anything,” Ferguson said.  “The report that I submitted are my results, which certainly aren't binding on a prosecutor - obviously.”

Ferguson said she didn't think to interview anyone with AMR, which is how federal investigators found the two medics who claim Officer Tim Moses told them Thompson said he hit Zehm in the head, neck and upper torso with a police baton. She also said she knows of three eye witness statements that spoke of possible baton strikes to the head.

In responding to an objection, Boutros said ” I want to show that her conclusion didn't take into consideration any of this information that she had.”

Boutros said Ferguson's report to county prosecutors found no evidence of excessive force, but “that was incorrect, wasn't it?” Van Sickle sustained a swift objection from defense lawyers. (Prosecutors have said Ferguson acknowledged to the grand jury that her investigation was “inaccurate.”)

On re-direct questioning, Oreskovich questioned Ferguson about standard procedure for officer interviews to show that Ferguson was just following policy. She said Thompson said he “could have disengaged” Zehm but chose not to because “he knew that there were other people in the store.” Ferguson said Thompson said there were objects that could be used as weapons in the store, and he didn't know if Zehm was armed.

Oreskovich asked Ferguson if Thompson said he was scared, but an objection from the prosecution was sustained and Ferguson was excused as a witness.

Thompson took the stand next and testified the rest of the day. Read more about that here. Cross examination is to continue tomorrow at 8 a.m.

Jury wants more information on Zehm

Get minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom here.

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.”

Karl Thompson is testifying right now

Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson is testifying now as the last witness in his excessive force trial in U.S. District Court in Yakima.

This is the first time Thompson has spoken publicly about the fatal confontation with Otto Zehm on March 18, 2006.

Retired Spokane police Detective Theresa Ferguson testified before Thompson.

Get minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom here.

Karl Thompson to testify tomorrow

Karl Thompson and his legal team, including Carl Oreskovich and Steve Lamberson, arrive at the William O. Douglas Federal Building in Yakima for the start of Thompson's trial. (AP file photo)

Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson will testify tomorrow at his excessive force trial in U.S. District Court in Yakima. I will be providing minute-by-minute updates from court through Twitter.

Thompson, 64, is expected to be the last witness before the defense rests its case. He's thought to be his own biggest defense against the lying to investigators charge. His lawyers, Carl Oreskovich and Steve Lamberson, questioned an expert earlier this week about “fractured memory” for police officers in critical incidents.

Testifying today were Detective Larry Bowman and Officer Terry Preuninger (pictured). Both men said Thompson followed training and used his baton and Taser accordingly against Otto Zehm. Read more from Tom Clouse in Yakima here.

Closing arguments in the case appear to be likely on Monday, which would be Zehm's birthday.

Thompson has been off patrol working a desk job since he was indicted in 2009. He had been back on patrol just after the March 18, 2006, fatal encounter.

Track the Karl Thompson-Otto Zehm trial

The defense is expected to rest on Thursday. Defense expert Michael Schott, a forensic image analyst who disputes prosecutors' description of the surveillence video, is on the stand now. Get minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom here.

YAKIMA – Spokane police Officer Steven Braun Jr. on Tuesday described Otto Zehm to jurors as someone who probably had committed a robbery, was trying to flee and then struggled violently against Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr.

 Braun provided details of the confrontation not captured on surveillance video from the north Spokane Zip Trip. Braun, the second officer to respond that night, described what he heard from dispatchers on March 18, 2006.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Justice for Otto Zehm? I question that…

Good morning, Netizens…


This belated greetings comes to you after a marathon 19 hour work day, which was preceded by another killer of a day just before it. Somehow, through the miracle of the Internet, I have been closely following the various Twitter feeds from Yakima in the Otto Zehm affair, and I must admit, as excellent as the reporting has been my stomach has suffered recurring bouts of serious upset as I suspect, although I cannot prove beyond a question of a doubt, that this entire case, rather than a search for the truth of the murder of Otto Zehm, is a search for ways to find everyone involved, from Karl Thompson to Mayor Queen Mary Verner not guilty of any malfeasance, and leaving their hands as lily-white as snow.


The facts, such as they are, in the form of the grainy video from the Zip Trip Store, are just vague enough that I question whether they will ever find Karl Thompson guilty, much less all the others who played roles in this ongoing travesty of justice. People lied. Others, including Rocky Treppiedi, tried to circumvent or at least bend the will of the Grand Jury to their goals of thwarting justice.


Of course, few of these transgressions will ever be brought before a judge and jury. That, in my opinion, is the unfortunate and miserably sad truth of the trial of Karl Thompson. Even if they succeed in finding Thompson guilty, the “big fish” have skated away unscathed and thus justice for Otto Zehm has not been served.


In my opinion, it is time to overhaul the system. Of course, your opinions could differ.



2nd doctor says Zehm was not hit in head

A second medical expert testified today that injuries to Otto Zehm's head were not caused by a police baton.

Dr. Daniel Davis, a forensic pathologist and the medical examiner in Lane County, Ore., said Zehm's head injuries were not caused by Officer Karl Thompson hitting Zehm with a baton, despite what others have previously said.

“These are characteristic for someone who bangs their head against” a flat surface like a floor or wall, Davis said about bruising under Zehm's scalp.

Davis says he reviewed surveillance video and sees a “variety” of opportunities for Zehm to hit head on the floor or shelves.

White Elephant Manager Pat Conley is on the stand right now and is describing Zehm has combative and angry.

Spokane police officers are expected to testify this afternoon.

Get minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom here.

Judge blasts latest dispute in Zehm case

U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle apparently has grown weary of the continuing admissibility battles between the prosecution and defense in Officer Karl Thompson's excessive force trial.

“I don't recall spending as much time pre-trial on any criminal case I've ever tried, and I've been doing them for 35 years,” the judge declared outside the presence of the jury Monday during a clash over the qualifications of a defense witness.

The witness, William Lewinski, is a self-described expert in the field of police psychology who routinely testifies in favor of law enforcement in cases of excessive force.

He formerly taught what he calls police psychology at the University of Minnesota-Mankato and now focuses on research that shows police officers often have fractured memories of stressful events and typically won't remember the encounters in proper sequence.

The defense is using the research to help argue against the charge that Thompson lied to investigators.

Prosecutors sought unsuccessfully to bar Lewinski from testifying as an “expert” witnesss, calling into question his methods and training.

John Drake, a legal intern at the U.S. attorney's office in Spokane, said he reviewed Lewinski's credentials with Lisa Fornier, an associate professor of psychology at Washington State University.

“It's fair to say Dr. Fornier's initial reaction were shock and disbelief to claims made by Dr. lewisinski,” Drake said. “It's lacking in the most basic” scientific research methodology.

But Van Sickle said that ground had already been plowed when he previously ruled that Lewinski was qualified to testify as an expert.

During cross examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin pointed out that Lewinski is not licensed to work as a psychologist and that police psychology isn't even a recognized field by the American Pyschology Association.

Lewinski - who charges a $3,800 retainer fee, $475 hourly rate and $3,500 to testify for four hours - said he has interviewed more than 1,200 officers who have been involved in deadly force situations.

Durkin asked Lewinski if he ever has testified that an officer was unjustified in using deadly force. “That's not my area,” Lewinski said.

“I don't make legal decisions.”

Doctor says Zehm was not struck in head

I'll be tracking the trial again today with minute-by-minute updates on Twitter. Another defense expert, Dr. Dan Davis, is testifying now. Check it out here.

Here's a summary from yesterday:

YAKIMA – After nearly two weeks of critical prosecution testimony, defense attorneys for Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. opened their case Monday with a medical doctor who told jurors Otto Zehm’s head injuries “couldn’t have” come from a police baton.

The conclusion of Dr. James Nania, a longtime emergency room physician at Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane, contradicts testimony of Spokane County Medical Examiner Dr. Sally Aiken and another medical expert called by federal prosecutors last week, both of whom said bleeding under Zehm’s scalp was consistent with baton strikes.

“They couldn’t have been,” Nania said. “You can’t do that kind of injury … without smashing the scalp.”

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Keep up with the Thompson-Zehm trial

The first witness of the day in the Karl Thompson trial is Angela Wiggins, who was working at Zip Trip the night of the encounter that led to Otto Zehm's death.

Prosecutors say Wiggins, who was arrested last week on a material witness warrant, heard Officer Sandy McIntyre say “there's no lunge,” which McIntyre denied last week.

Get minute-by-minute updates from the trial here.

Listen to Karl Thompson’s SPD interview

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Thompson Interview

Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson described his encounter with Otto Zehm in a 2006 interview with Detective Terry Ferguson, who has since retired.

Jurors heard that interview in court last week.

Now you can listen to it above.

Thompson is pictured outside the Yakima courthouse with his lawyer, Carl Oreskovich. He's charged with violating Zehm's civil rights and falsfying documents related to the investigation.

Oreskovich unsuccessfully tried to get the last charge dismissed in April 2010, arguing Thompson never swore to tell the trurth when he signed the document detailing the encounter.

McIntyre describes ‘intimidation’ by FBI

A Spokane police officer who is the target of a grand jury investigation for her role in the Otto Zehm case cried on the stand today as she alleged intimidation by federal agents.

Sandy McIntyre, who has a “father-daughter relationship” with Karl Thompson, has previously told federal investigators she though Thompson overreacted after she watched the video of the confrontation with Zehm.

But she told jurors in Thompson's excessive force case today that she doesn't actually believe that and doesn't remember saying that.

“I did not think he overreacted. I did not see the whole video and I wasn't there,” McIntyre said. “It's unfair of me to say he overreacted; I wasn't there.”

Federal prosecutor Victor Boutros said McIntyre talked to Thompson after watching video, but McIntyre said “I didn't speak to him about what was on the tape.”

Boutros said McIntyre exclaimed out loud that there was never a lunge, which McIntyre denied.

“I would not have made a note of that,” she said.

Boutros pointed out that after Acting Police Chief Jim Nicks told the department about the lunge, “You never corrected lunge lie, even though you knew it wasn't true.”

McIntyre replied: “I wasn't at work. It wasn't my job to correct that.”

McIntyre began crying when Thompson's lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, asked her whether she was scared when FBI threatened to charge her with obstruction of justice. She said it “very much” frightened her, though Boutros said the warning was a stand thing said before all interviews.

Oreskovich asked about her children, ages 19 and 14.

“My career means the world to me, just like my family does. That being said, it scared me to death,” McIntyre said. “I was told 'now's the time to save yourself.'”

McIntyre said that if you look at just a portion of the video or what's on TV “Yeah it looks horrible, it looks bad” but “I wasn't there when it started.” Only Thompson was, she said.

McIntyre admitted that she said “I don't recall” to grand jury questions when she actually did recall portions of it. “I did not feel like I could expand on my answers,” McIntyre said.

Oreskovich emphasized to jurors that federal agents “scared the hell” out of McIntyre to get her to say certain things to the grand jury.

Also testifying today was Officer Erin Raleigh.

Check out my minute-by-minute coverage here.

Look for Tom Clouse's full report from Yakima in The Spokesman-Review. We'll be back with full coverage on Monday.

Past coverage:

Oct. 21: Tim Moses claims feds manipulated him 

Tim Moses: Thought I could trust FBI

Spokane police Officer Tim Moses was so rattled after meeting with federal investigators about the Otto Zehm case that he feared an agent might be secretly recording him when he met with him afterward.

Moses knew an FBI agents from hostage negotiation team trainings, in which Karl Thompson also participated.

The agent heard Moses was upset about how he was treated, and the two met at a city gas fill-up area. Moses told defense lawyer Carl Oreskovich that he picked the spot because it was near railroad tracks. He wanted there to be a lot of extra noise in case he was being secretly recorded.

Moses said he doesn't want to use the word “manipulated” because he still respects law enforcement, but he feels the FBI basically forced him to say incriminating things against Thompson that weren't true, such as that Thompson claimed Zehm lunged at him.

“I trusted the FBI to tell me the truth. I didn't know any better.” Moses said.

Moses and federal prosecutor Victor Boutros sparred this morning as Moses criticized Boutros for only showing clips of the surveillance video instead of the entire thing.

Moses said he never talked to Thompson about what happened until after Zehm was en route to the hospital, which contradicts testimony from EMTs that Moses said Zehm had been hit in the head and neck with a police baton.

Boutros asked Moses about an alleged statement he made to a witness - that Zehm had gotten the “tar” beat out of him - prompting a swift objection from Oreskovich.

Jurors were instructed to disregard the statement.

Moses said he was taken aback by how the FBI threatened him with obstuction of justice chargs.

“I thought we were all professional law enforcement,” Moses said.

Oreskovich ended his questioning with this exchange: “You knew if you were charged with obstruction of justice you wouldn't work in law enforcement again would you?”

Moses replied yes.

“I was raised in a law enforcement family. I know exactly what obstruction of justice means,” Moses said.

Read more from Moses' testimony in this play-by-play from the courtroom.

Democratic chairman says Verner took ‘high road,’ as former Dem chairman takes to airwaves for Condon


Not surprisingly, the campaign of David Condon is taking full advantage of the endorsement he got from former Spokane County Democratic Chairman Tom Keefe. Keefe is featured in the Condon TV ad above and is the first endorsement listed on a Condon mailer that arrived at homes this week.

Condon, the former district director for Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, has been working to distance himself from the Republican label, though McMorris Rodgers recently headlined a fundraiser for his campaign.

Meanwhile, Verner's campaign has a released a statement from the current chairman of the Spokane County Democratic Party, David Smith. He addresses the Otto Zehm matter, which is the issue that Keefe said pursuaded him to back Condon.

“Mary Verner was not mayor when Otto Zehm died. She was sworn into office a full eighteen months after his death. She could have chosen to augment her political capital by joining in the public condemnation of Officer Thompson,” Smith said. ” Instead, despite her professed grief for the family of Otto Zehm, she chose to accept the political risk inherent in standing up for Officer Thompson’s right to a fair trial. Doing so took courage.  Standing up for the constitution always does.”

Here is Smith's full statement responding to Keefe's endorsement:

Tim Moses’ testimony to continue today

A doctor who testified in the Rodney King police brutality case in 1992 told jurors the Karl Thompson excessive force trial Thursday that the case are comparable.

 “The Rodney King case had similar elements to the case at hand,” said Dr. Harry Lincoln Smith. He said medical evidence clearly shows Otto Zehm was beaten over the head with a baton. Read more from Tom Clouse here.

Smith's testimony began a packed day that ended with contentious testimony from Officer Tim Moses (pictured), who contradicted testimony given to a grand jury in 2009.

It was Moses, prosecutors say, who first revealed to EMTs that Zehm had been hit in the head with a baton.

But Moses said Thursday he doesn't recall his conversations with EMTs that night.

“I frankly don't remember what he asked me…it was 5 1/2 years ago. I wish I could tell ya,” he said.

But Moses told a grand jury about strikes to the head, neck and torso. He also said he'd heard Thompson say Zehm lunged at him.

Federal prosecutor Victor Boutros asked Moses if he swore to tell the truth to the grand jury.

“What I knew it to be at the time, yes,” Moses replied. “…I don't lie, no.”

Moses testified Thursday that he hadn't even been briefed by Thompson before Zehm left an ambulance.

Boutros asked Moses about a private “venting session” Thompson had with him outside the Zip Trip has Thompson was calming down. Moses said Thompson simply pointed out where his police car had been positioned. He said Thompson described baton strikes, but said he didn't hear anything about strikes to the head or neck.

Moses said video that prosecutors say shows him describing the baton strikes to two EMTs does not show that.

“I was not describing baton strikes right there,” Moses said.

Moses also said Thompson never used the words “lunge” or “lunged,” which contradicts what he told a grand jury.

 “He did not use the word lunge, no. I'm the one who coined that word,” Moses said of Thompson. Moses then told Acting Police Chief Jim Nicks, who “went right across the parking lot and put it into a news media microphone.”

Moses said he was threatened by the FBI with obstruction of justice charges if he said he did not remember facts, which led to his erroneous grand jury testimony.

“I was shocked that a fellow law enforcement officer would treat me that way,” Moses said.

“My family's FBI. I've been a cop my whole life,” Moses said. He said he thought they were going to tell truth, but they manipulated him.

Boutros emphasized that Moses is a 22-year officer who thinks he was influenced by FBI to make statements that weren't true. Moses agreed.

Moses' testimony continues today at 8 a.m.

Tom Clouse is providing daily coverage from Yakima. I'm following the live feed from Spokane with minute-by-minute updates on Twitter.

Zip Trip manager: Zehm was a regular

This screenshot of Zip Trip surveillance video shows Otto Zehm inside the store on March 18, 2006. One of the young girls pictured, Britni Brashers, testified at Karl Thompson's trial last week.

A Spokane convenience store who knew Otto Zehm as a regular customer since 2002 told jurors today that Zehm frequently bought 2-liter bottles of Pepsi at the Zip Trip at 10th and Maple.

Zeth Mayfield has worked at all Zip Trips in Spokane, he told jurors, though he never saw Zehm in the Zip Trip on North Division where Officer Karl Thompson confronted him.

Outside the presence of the jury, defense lawyer Carl Oreskovich tried to exclude Mayfield's testimony, telling Judge Van Sickle it was irrelevant to the point of the case, which is whether Thompson used too much force.

All Mayfield's testimony does, Oreskovich said, is establish that Zehm was a regular customer  “which is not at all what was known to Officer Thompson.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aine Ahmed said Mayfield was needed to help show that Zehm wasn't using the soda bottle as a weapon - that he regularly bought soda at Zip Trip.

“No one can speak for Mr. Zehm right now,” Ahmed said. “I can't prove anything about his innocence..” so he must look at intent.

Ahmed said were Zehm still alive, he surely would be allowed to testily that he didn't use the bottle as a weapon and that he always bought that kind of soda. He said Mayfield could show that Zehm “never acted aggressively” when he was in the store.

Ahmed said Zehm introduced himself when Mayfield began working at the store in 2002 and said “welcome to Zip Trip.” He said Zehm once found two $5 bills in the store, turned them in, then refused to keep one when the customer came back before them.

Mayfield didn't get into that with jurors, but he did say that he saw Zehm in Zip Trips more than 50 times.

Mayfield said Zehm bought  “sodas, snacks, anything that he needed for groceries. Milk, egg,” and went in just about every other day.

On cross examination, Oreskovich noted that Mayfield had not contacted Zehm in the months prior to the confrontation, and had not seen him the day of March 18, 2006.

Feds: Moses may contradict own testimony

Spokane police Officer Tim Moses may contradict testimony he gave to a grand jury in 2009 if he testifies as a prosecution witness in the federal trial of Officer Karl Thompson, according to court documents filed this week.

U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle issued an order today that requires Moses to testify. His lawyer, Chris Bugbee, has said he expects Moses to be offered immunity.

Bugbee told prosecutors that Moses' testimony “may be inconsistent with sworn testimony that he previously provided in front of the Grand Jury, in and for the Eastern District of Washington on June 16, 2009.”

Prosecutors say Moses changed his statement about Thompson hitting Zehm in the head with a baton after talking to Thompson “and having later met with Defendant's counsel while then unrepresented by Mr. Bugbee.”

Moses is one of 22 witnesses prosecutors sought to declare as hostile, which allows them more freedom in questioning. Hostile witnesses can be asked leading questions.

In a document explaining the need for the designation, prosecutors described the deep support Thompson has in the Spokane Police Department.

“Many local law enforcement officers and others have come to the defense of Defendant Thompson as they see this prosecution as an unwarranted attack on one of their own and on the Spokane Police Department that employs Defendant,” according to a document filed Tuesday.

Moses is expected to testify today. Check here for minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom.

Past coverage:

Oct. 19: Retired SPD cpl. declared hostile witness in Zehm case

Oct. 17: Police use '505' to support Thompson

Oct. 13: Officer may plead 5th in Thompson trial

EMT: Moses told me of Zehm head strikes

Another EMT who responded to the Zip Trip the night of Otto Zehm's fatal confrontation with Officer Karl Thompson told jurors this morning that Officer Tim Moses said Zehm had been struck in the head, neck and upper chest with a police baton.

Aaron Jaramillo, a former EMT with American Medical Response, reiterated what EMT Michael Stussi told jurors Wednesday.

“We needed to know what happened…how he was injured” beyond just the “confrontation” explanation, Jaramillo said. That's when they spoke with Moses, who said Zehm had been hit “up and down” in the head, neck and upper torso with a baton, Jarmillo said.

Federal prosecutor Victor Boutros showed Jaramillo images of the Zip Trip after the confrontation.
Jaramillo identified himself and Stussi as talking to Moses. Moses is seen gesturing up and down with his arm - Jaramillo said he was “trying to describe” how Zehm was hit.

Jaramillo said Moses was the only one who spoke of head strikes that night.

Jaramillo and Stussi wrote in a pre-hospital care report that Zehm was struck in the head. Spokane police employees were present when it was written; none disputed the head strikes claim, Jaramillo told jurors.

But Jaramillo wasn't so sure when he first testified before a grand jury in 2009. Boutros questioned him about getting only one hour of sleep because of a newborn baby and flying to Spokane from Florida. He was much more alert for his testimony the next day.

Defense lawyer Steve Lamberson said Jaramillo has previously said that Moses never mentioned a head strike, rather Jaramillo assumed he was referring to one by the way he was gesturing.

“No, he said head, neck and upper chest,” Jaramillo said.

 Lamberson also pointed out that in the first day of testimony before the grand jury, Jaramillo said “right now, I don't remember” when asked if Zehm lunged at Thompson.

He also noted that both Stussi and Jaramillo evaluated Zehm for head injuries but found nothing. Also, a doctor's report said nothing about head injuries or strikes.

Boutros then emphasized bruising takes time to develop, and that Jaramillo noted in his initial report that Zehm was struck in the head with a baton.

Jaramillo was told that Zehm threw bottle at Thompson, was Tasered but not affected, then lunged at Thompson.

Officer Tim Moses is expected to testify as early as this afternoon.

SPD: Hostile witnesses, immunity letter

A paramedic who wrote a report describing baton blows to Otto Zehm's head by police testified today that he heard about the head strikes from Spokane police Officer Tim Moses.

It was through Michael Stussi's report, prosecutors said in opening statements last week, that the “secret truth” about the level of response Officer Karl Thompson used on Zehm was revealed.

Stussi told jurors today that Moses (pictured left) was the only person who could have provided him the information the night of March 18, 2006. The report states that Zehm became “combative” and was hit in the “upper torso, neck and head” “by a nightstick per SPD.” 

Prosecutors introduced scenes of the Zip Trip that night that showed Stussi talking to Moses. Moses is seen moving his arm up and down, which Stussi mimics, indicating that may have been when Moses described the head blows.

On cross examination, defense lawyer Steve Lamberson pointed out that Stussi originally told federal investigators in 2009 that it was an officer or firefighter who told hm about the head strikes.

Stussi said he originally couldn't remember, but that he reviewed the video and realized Moses was the only one who could have told him about the head strikes.

“I don't recall talking to anyone else” other than Moses, Stussi said. That includes Thompson.

Moses is expected to testify Thursday in Yakima, with a live feed of the trial available at the federal courthouse in Spokane. 

Also expected to testify is Officer Erin Raleigh, who also responded to the Zip Trip the night of the fatal confrontation.

Outside the presence of jurors, prosecutors discussed wanting Moses and Raleigh designated as hostile witnesses so they can be asked leading questions.

Defense lawyer Carl Oreskovich questioned why Raleigh (pictured right) needed that designation. Prosecutors say he has alleged coercion by federal agents and is a major supporter of Thompson.

Chris Bugbee, lawyer for both officers, said Wednesday evening that he hadn't heard of the possible designation but doesn't feel it's necessary. Moses had not yet received a letter promising him immunity from prosecution if he testifies, but “I presume he will,” Bugbee said.

Bugbee said the immunity regards “not much, just anything that he may testify to on the stand.”

“I'm sure Mr. Oreskovich will bring out the full breadth of what it entails,” Bugbee said.

Testimony begins today at 9 a.m. Check here for minute-by-minute updates from the courtroom.

Past coverage:

Oct. 19: Retired SPD cpl. declared hostile witness in Zehm case

Oct. 13: Officer may plead 5th in Thompson trial

Couple describe Zehm-Thompson fight

A Spokane couple who was in the Zip Trip parking lot the night of the fatal confrontation between Otto Zehm and Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson testified today that Zehm never lunged or attacked Thompson with a pop bottle.

Russell Balow said Thompson stopped “very briefly” for a second or two when he was about eight feet away from Zehm. He saw his mouth move just before Thompson struck Zehm twice with his baton.

“He seemed suprised” by the baton strikes, Balow said of Zehm.

Oreskovich asked Balow if he saw a baton strike that “grazed his head or face first before it struck his shoulder,” to which Balow said yes.

“All you are saying is what appeared to you some 60 feet away watching an officer swing a baton?” Oreskovich asked. Balow again said yes.

His wife, Kerry Balow, told jurors that she saw Thompson deliver two  “overhand” “roundhouse” baton strikes that surprised Zehm.

Balow said she never saw Zehm use pop bottle in threatening manner.

“What happened to Otto Zehm after the 2nd baton strike?” prosecutors asked. “He fell down,” Balow responded.

In cross examination, Carl Oreskovich emphasized that, though Balow couldn't hear what Thompson said, she saw his mouth move before the first baton strike.

“In your assessment of it he was speaking forcefully, correct?” Oreskovich said.

“Correct,” Balow replied.

Read more in Tom Clouses's story from Yakima.

Jim Nicks testifies at Thompson trial

Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks told jurors in Officer Karl Thompson's excessive force trial this morning that Thompson approached him a year ago and told him he'd tried to take back his initial statement about Otto Zehm lunging at him.

At the request of federal prosecutors, Nicks also read to jurors an email sent to police employees the night of Thompson's fatal confrontation with Zehm on March 18, 2006.

Written by Tom Lee, SPD public information officer at the time, the email doesn't name Thompson but said an officer responding to a report of a suspicious person encountered a “large and strong” man who “immediately lunged” at him.

The man was controlled after several minutes of “hand to hand combat,” according to the email, but stopped breathing without warning after medics responded.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin asked Nicks, wearing a dark suit instead of a police uniform, if the information in the email was consistent with what he heard when he talked to police at the Zip Trip.

“Yes, that's very accurate,” Nicks responded.

Nicks then told jurors that, about a year ago, Thompson approached him at the Public Safety Building and told him he'd corrected him about the lunge statement, which Nicks disputes.

“That would have been very memorable, and I don't have any memory of such a conversation,” Nicks told jurors.

Prosecutors ended questioning by asking Nicks if anyone ever corrected him about the claim that Zehm lunged at Thompson.

“No,” Nicks said.

In cross examination, defense lawyer Steve Lamberson emphasized that Nicks never actually talked to Thompson that night. Thompson never told Nicks Zehm lunged at him, Lamberson said.

“That's correct,” Nicks said.

Lamberson went over Lee's email and focused on statements that the Taser was ineffective, and it took several minutes of hand-to-hand combat to control Zehm.

He also pointed out that Nicks never bothered to correct statements he'd made to the media after he reviewed the video. Nicks replied that he was waiting for the investigation to be complete.

Lamberson also pointed out that Thompson is still employed by the Spokane Police Department.

Spokane County Medical Examiner Sally Aiken is testifying now. Get minute-by-minute updates from the trial here.

Spokane police Officer Tim Moses' lawyer, Chris Bugbee, stopped by the live feed of the trial at the Spokane federal courthouse and said Moses is ready to be in Yakima tomorrow to testify.

Retired SPD cpl. testifies in Zehm case

A retired Spokane police corporal who was on scene after Karl Thompson confronted Otto Zehm was declared an adverse witness Tuesday as prosecutors described his friendship with Thompson.

That designation allowed prosecutors to ask retired Cpl. Ty R. Johnson leading questions during his testimony Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Yakima.

When asked if Thompson was a friend, Johnson (pictured left) said “I would hope so.”  He said they worked patrol together, and Thompson goes to Christmas parties at his home and also just to visit.

Johnson also said yes when asked if he'd rather not be testifying in the government's case.

Johnson said he was at the Zip Trip after the confrontation to photograph evidence in a possible case of felony assault by Zehm against Thompson and Officer Steve Braun, the second officer on scene.

Defense lawyer Carl Oreskovich emphasized in cross examination that Johnson's duty wasn't to get the whole story from Thompson.

Oreskovich introduced Johnson's evidence photos to jurors, including a close-up picture of Thompson that showed red marks on his cheeks. Oreskovich pointed out each one.

On re-direct questioning from prosecution, Johnson was asked about the claim that Zehm lunged at Thompson. “I'm asking whether he told you that night that Mr. Zehm had assaulted him?” the prosecutor asked.

 “I guess, I would assume,” Johnson said, adding that Sgt. Dan Torok was also on scene and the decision had been made to investigate a possible assault by Zehm, so the statement had to have been made at some point.

“I have idea where it came from. I never used it and it's never been used to me,” Johnson says of Zehm's alleged lunge.

Johnson said he never used the word lunged.

“I have no idea who initiated it,” Johnson said.

Johnson retired from the Spokane Police Department in July after 25 years. His testimony previewed what's expected to be a big day of testimony today from Spokane Police Department employees, including Assistant Chief Jim Nicks (pictured right).

Prosecutors disclosed Tuesday that Nicks said Monday night that Thompson tried to manipulate his testimony about the lunge statement in a conversation a year ago. Read more in Tom Clouse's report from the Yakima courtroom.

I'll be following the trial all day today with minute-by-minute updates on my Twitter page.

Officer Tim Moses is on the witness list. Prosecutors said last week that Moses may invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination but said Tuesday that he's expected to be offered immunity.

Testimony begins at 9 a.m. Stay tuned.