The divorce that enabled former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to charge taxpayers more than half a million dollars for his legal defense against excessive force charges is being questioned by federal authorities.
Thompson, still awaiting sentencing for his 2006 fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm, still lives with his ex-wife in the Hayden home she was supposed to have taken full ownership of four years ago, and they continue to share bank accounts and auto insurance policies, prosecutors note.
“Serious questions remain concerning the accuracy of Defendant’s representations about his joint and individual financial resources,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin wrote. The divorce decree from September 2008 “required a transfer of all interest in assets from (Thompson) to his spouse.”
Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich confirmed that his client has not transferred the assets and that Thompson continues to live in the home with his ex-wife. He denied government claims of deception and described the Thompsons’ arrangement as two people struggling with an uncertain future.
“It’s a real divorce. It’s a situation where there is not much to go around. The Thompsons are trying to sell their home,” he said. “They are trying make ends stretch until the home gets sold.”
As of Sept. 25, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle had authorized payments of $541,180 to Oreskovich’s law firm to defend Thompson, who was convicted last year of using excessive force and lying to investigators following the March 18, 2006, confrontation with Otto Zehm.
Zehm died two days after Thompson beat him with a baton, shocked him with a Taser and several other officers hog-tied him following an erroneous report that he had stolen money from a nearby ATM.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno noted the divorce when she declared Thompson indigent in July 2009 despite his $73,000 annual salary and interest in the $675,000 log home on two acres in Hayden.
Records indicate that the Thompsons divorced in 2008 as the criminal investigation was under way.
The divorce, filed by Diana J. Thompson, called for her to receive the family home, “as well as a motor vehicle and other personal property.” She also was to receive half of Thompson’s retirement plan through the city of Spokane.
But when he recently was interviewed for the pre-sentence report, Thompson said that his wife is “still the family’s ‘bookkeeper’ and that no separate accounts have been created or maintained,” Durkin wrote in court records.
Oreskovich countered by saying that Thompson had made a promise to his three daughters that he would “honor their mother and them by making sure she is taken care of to the best of his ability.”
“The government attempts to imply that the divorce was somehow illegitimate,” Oreskovich wrote.
“This claim is baseless and should not be considered by the Court.”
He explained that Thompson did create a separate account, in which he deposits his checks from Social Security.
But he “does remain on one of his ex-wife’s accounts because the entirety of his monthly retirement is directly deposited into the account to allow his ex-wife to pay bills,” Oreskovich wrote. “The remaining amount serves as his alimony payment to her.”
Van Sickle last year denied Durkin’s request to tell the jury about the details of the divorce during the trial “to expose the Defendant’s untruthfulness.”
Reached at his office Thursday, Durkin said he could not comment about any aspect of the case.
Oreskovich, in a Thursday telephone interview, said Thompson is doing his best to fulfill his promises to his ex-wife.
“I think the government is trying to make something where there isn’t an issue,” he said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.