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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Officer seeks lower sentence

Range is 27 to 33 months for Thompson conviction

A federal prosecutor is objecting to a request by convicted former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to reduce his potential prison sentence on the grounds that he has taken responsibility for using excessive force against Otto Zehm then lying to cover it up.

Thompson’s lawyer, Carl Oreskovich, had requested that a judge reduce Thompson’s potential sentence below the 27 months and 33 months currently outlined by sentencing guidelines, arguing that the decorated former officer has accepted responsibility for the crimes.

“While Defendant Thompson did choose to exercise his right to trial, this does not preclude him from receiving a sentencing reduction for acceptance of responsibility,” Oreskovich wrote in a Jan. 6 filing. “Thompson has understood and accepted responsibility for the actions he took inside the Zip Trip store.”

Thompson hit Zehm with his baton and used a Taser on the man, who was wrongly identified as having stolen money from a nearby ATM. Zehm died two days after the encounter in the convenience store.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin responded late Monday that the reduction does not “apply to a defendant who stands convicted but steadfastly maintains that the jury simply ‘got it wrong.’

“In contrast, Defendant’s and his counsel’s adamant contest of the prosecution in this case, at every turn, and their repeated attempts to justify Defendant’s convicted criminal offense conduct by ‘blaming the victim’ Otto Zehm … ‘flies in the face of reason,’ is not rationally supported by either the facts or the law, and respectfully, must be summarily rejected,” Durkin wrote.

In addition to arguing the finer points of the sentencing guidelines, the document for the first time reveals a potential sentencing range for Thompson, 64, who was convicted by a jury on Nov. 3 after a four-week trial in Yakima.

Prosecutors initially indicated they would seek a sentence of six to eight years in federal prison. But Durkin said in the court filing that Thompson’s sentencing range is 27 months to 33 months in prison.

Thompson originally was supposed to be sentenced Friday, but U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle earlier this month vacated that order and has not yet set a new sentencing date. The judge’s action came after Oreskovich raised concerns about how prosecutors summarized the expected testimony of forensic video expert Grant Fredericks.

Oreskovich on Monday asked Van Sickle for more time to file a motion seeking a new trial until he can sort out issues relating to Fredericks.

According to court records, Fredericks was hired by Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi to enhance the video surveillance taken at the Zip Trip, located at 1712 N. Division St.

Four cameras captured the confrontation between Thompson and Zehm that occurred on March 18, 2006.

The FBI later hired Fredericks to analyze the video and prepare still photographs of the encounter for use in Thompson’s trial.

Despite being on the witness list for both sides, attorneys did not call Fredericks during the four-week trial. It wasn’t until after the conviction that Fredericks raised concerns about how Durkin summarized his expected testimony.

Oreskovich now alleges prosecutorial misconduct and is seeking a new trial based on Fredericks’ concerns.

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