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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hanford contractor CH2M Hill to pay $18.5 million for fraud

Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday a deal to have the world’s largest engineering firm, CH2M Hill, pay $18.5 million to resolve criminal and civil violations arising from a scheme to overbill taxpayers through time-card fraud at the Hanford nuclear site. CH2M Hill contracted with the U.S. Department of Energy between 1999 and 2008 to manage and clean 177 underground storage tanks that hold radioactive and hazardous waste at Hanford, which produced plutonium during World War II and the Cold War.

Feds make deal to end fraud case at Hanford

Federal prosecutors announced today a deal to have the world’s largest engineering firm, CH2M Hill, pay $18.5 million to resolve criminal and civil violations caused by years of defrauding the public by having contractors overbill the public through time-card fraud at the Hanford Nuclear Site.

Spokane police to get federal review

After years of controversy and calls for outside scrutiny, U.S. Department of Justice officials will arrive next week to begin reviewing police shootings and other uses of force by Spokane police officers. The rare federal intervention, conducted by mutual agreement with City Hall, will examine the Police Department’s culture and all incidents over the past four years involving officers’ use of deadly and nonlethal force. Spokane police officers have shot and killed eight people since March 2009.

Feds to review Spokane Police uses of force

After years of controversy and calls for outside scrutiny, U.S. Justice Department officials will arrive next week to begin reviewing police shootings and other use of force by Spokane Police officers.

Medical pot dispensaries hope legalization opens new doors

Among the antique stores and other shops of Spokane’s historic Garland District is a door painted with a happy snowman. Inside, the merchant is peddling medical marijuana while harboring hopes of soon expanding into the recreational market and cashing in on what many are calling the next great economic frontier. The Herbal Connection quietly sells marijuana to card-carrying medicinal customers, as do nearly a dozen other medicinal pot shops currently operating in the Spokane area. The commerce continues despite raids and warnings in 2011 by federal agents that closed more than 40 medical marijuana dispensaries across Spokane.

Condon fires city attorney

In the biggest shakeup of his administration yet, Spokane Mayor David Condon on Thursday fired City Attorney Howard Delaney following worsening criticism of the legal office’s handling of a series of high-profile cases. Condon informed Delaney Thursday morning, said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist, who also announced the appointment of new City Attorney Nancy Isserlis, a former chairwoman of the city’s Ethics Commission.

Interim police chief inherits challenge

Scott Stephens was taught by his father to respect everyone and never to lay hands on someone in anger, Spokane’s interim police chief said. That’s why it was hard for him, as a young patrol officer, to adapt to the requirements of his job.

Authorities snag escapee in North Spokane

Authorities today arrested a federal inmate that walked away from a scheduled medical appointment on Spokane’s South Hill several days ago. The U.S. Marshals-led Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force arrested Sandra Irene Duffy, 47, in North Spokane about 2 p.m. Through “investigative sources and anonymous information,” the task force determined Duffy’s whereabouts, according to a U.S. Marshals Service news release. Duffy was booked into the Spokane County Jail. On Jan. 10, Duffy walked away from an appointment after she was furloughed on a court order that allowed her to go to her appointment with her attorney. U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno issued a warrant for Duffy’s arrest on Jan. 12. Duffy was originally charged in July with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. She also escaped authorities in 2008 when she leaped off a bridge into the Wenatchee River. She was rearrested two days later. "The U.S. Marshals Service would like to extend our appreciation for the assistance of the public, the media, and to all law enforcement agencies that participated in the search and apprehension of the suspect," said U.S. Marshal Craig Thayer. The U.S Marshal also thanked DEA, the Wenatchee Police Department, the Moses Lake Police Department and Grant County Sheriff’s Office for their roles. The Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force is comprised of the U.S. Marshals Service, the Department of Corrections, U.S. Border Patrol, Social Security Office of the Inspector General, and state and local law enforcement agencies.

Thompson defense seeks new trial

Defense attorneys for convicted Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. filed a motion Friday claiming everything from judicial error to juror misconduct in their attempt to persuade a federal judge to grant a new trial for charges stemming from the fatal 2006 confrontation with Otto Zehm. The first allegation is one that has been presented twice – and twice rejected by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle – that the government did not present sufficient evidence to show Thompson acted willfully, or with a bad or evil purpose, to deprive Zehm of his constitutional right to be free of unreasonable force.

Union leaders vow openness

Spokane Police Department union leaders said Tuesday they’re happy to cooperate with a possible federal investigation of the department and have no concerns about what it may find. “We know that we need the community to believe in us again, and that’s why we know this is a good thing,” said Lt. Joe Walker, president of the 13-member Spokane Police Lieutenants and Captains Association.

The Thompson trial: Key players

Otto Zehm: A 36-year-old, recently out-of-work janitor who had schizophrenia, Zehm mostly kept to himself. The exception was a small group of friends he would invite over for late-night guitar jam sessions. On most nights, he ate his dinners at convenience stores. On March 18, 2006, Zehm was in a Zip Trip in north Spokane when he was confronted by Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., who was responding to an erroneous report that Zehm had stolen money from the ATM where he cashed his checks. After a struggle that included police baton strikes, Taser jolts and the arrival of six other officers, Zehm was hog-tied and a medical mask intended only for use with a dedicated oxygen supply strapped over his nose and mouth. He stopped breathing and died two days later. Thomas Clouse

Grant will help prosecute sex crimes against children

The Kootenai County prosecutor’s office received a $494,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute people who sexually abuse and exploit children and to enforce sex offender registration laws.