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With the 10th anniversary of the beating of Otto Zehm upon us, it’s time to thank some of the unsung heroes who kept him from dying in obscurity.
The decision to promote Pamela DeRusha to first assistant U.S. attorney was made after criminal chief Aine Ahmed chose to step down from a management job, U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby said Wednesday.
Attorneys for imprisoned former Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson argued Monday that prosecutors did not turn over important evidence before trial. Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich told the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle that the evidence could have been used to attack conclusions drawn by use-of-force witnesses in the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.
U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby is credited by witnesses with pulling co-worker Tim Durkin from the path of a Spokane Transit Authority bus at a busy intersection in front of the federal building Friday evening. “He would have been hit straight-on by the front of that bus,” said Natasha Shallbetter, who was driving downtown with her husband and two children just after 5 p.m. Ormsby and Durkin, an assistant U.S. attorney, were in the crosswalk leading south from the Thomas S. Foley Federal Courthouse across Riverside Avenue. The bus was turning left from North Monroe Street, Shallbetter said.
A federal judge rejected demands that former Spokane police Officer Karl Thompson Jr. pay $825,000 in restitution to taxpayers and the family of Otto Zehm. Thompson is imprisoned in Safford, Ariz. A jury convicted him of using excessive force and lying to investigators about the death of Zehm, an unarmed janitor.
Let’s make believe that you’re on the jury in the federal criminal trial against Karl F. Thompson Jr. Presuming it ever happens, of course.
Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. divorced his wife to shield his assets and force taxpayers to foot the bill for his criminal defense, the federal prosecutor in the Otto Zehm case alleged in court documents filed this week. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to allow the government to tell the jury in Thompson’s upcoming trial about the divorce agreement, which Durkin called a “fraudulent transfer” under Idaho law.
Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. divorced his wife to shield his assets and force taxpayers to foot the bill for his criminal defense, the federal prosecutor in the Otto Zehm case alleged in court documents filed this week.
Otto Zehm, U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle, Karl F. Thompson Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin, Carl Oreskovich, Mayor Mary Verner; Terry Ferguson; Mark Burbridge; Victor Boutros; U.S. Department of Justice
Allegations of a cover-up by Spokane police officers over their handling of the fatal Otto Zehm confrontation and the department’s 2006 investigation of the case are being presented to a federal grand jury. In the ongoing obstruction-of-justice probe by the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI, indications are that some Spokane police officers, including Assistant Chief Jim Nicks and lead detective Terry Ferguson, now acknowledge that the city’s earlier characterizations of the fatal encounter were wrong and that its investigation clearing officers of wrongdoing was incomplete and inaccurate. Federal documents filed this week in U.S. District Court also suggest Spokane police altered witness statements to appear more favorable to the first responding officers.
A federal judge ruled Thursday in favor of the city of Spokane and granted a motion brought by the attorneys for Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to obtain Otto Zehm’s mental health records from a 2000 stay at Eastern State Hospital. However, U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle said he will wait until later to determine whether Thompson gets to use those mental health records in his defense during the trial, which is currently set for June 2.
A lawyer representing the city of Spokane argued for the first time Friday that Otto Zehm was suffering from “excited delirium” before his 2006 confrontation with police, making it a pre-existing mental condition that therefore justified the level of force used to detain him. Up until the legal argument Friday by Carl Oreskovich, who was hired by the city to defend Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr., police officials had listed excited delirium as a contributing factor to Zehm’s death. But Oreskovich said Zehm had been off his medication for paranoid schizophrenia for weeks before he walked into the Zip Trip at 1712 N. Division St. on March 18, 2006.
Attorneys representing Spokane police in the Otto Zehm lawsuit launched a counterattack Tuesday against suggestions by federal prosecutors that they withheld information about the fatal confrontation in 2006. Sworn statements from police officers filed in U.S. District Court also contend a federal prosecutor tried to intimidate them last fall into changing their testimony to the grand jury. Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, fired their own salvos in what amounts to a war of printed words. They said they would call witnesses in an upcoming criminal trial to describe how Zehm, an unarmed janitor, was struck in the head with a police baton, an unwarranted use of force for the level of threat he posed and a stark contradiction to the Police Department’s official version of events.
More Spokane police officers could face criminal charges over the city’s handling of the fatal confrontation with unarmed janitor Otto Zehm, with newly filed court documents indicating a federal probe is continuing into potential obstructions of justice. The new documents filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin contain new details about the confrontation that suggest police and city officials have misled the public and others about what happened the night of March 18, 2006, when Zehm was beaten with a police baton, shocked with a Taser, and hogtied by a half-dozen officers before lapsing into a coma and dying two days later.
Federal prosecutors have grown increasingly critical of what they describe as questionable behavior by the Spokane Police Department’s chief legal adviser, who reportedly used his position to provide “traditionally confidential” information to the officer under FBI investigation following the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm. In documents filed recently in U.S. District Court, prosecutors describe a pattern of behavior by Assistant Spokane City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi that raises questions about whether the city actively sought to interfere with the federal investigation that led to a grand jury indictment of Officer Karl F. Thompson. Treppiedi disputes any suggestion that he has acted improperly.
Friends of Otto Zehm wore small blue buttons that read “Otto” in support of the mentally ill janitor, after he died in 2006 following a struggle with Spokane police. Now friends of Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. are rallying with $10 blue wristbands to raise money for Thompson’s “out-of- pocket” expenses as he awaits trial in federal court on charges of using unreasonable force against Zehm and lying to detectives who investigated the incident. Thompson has been transferred to desk duty and is still collecting his salary of about $73,000 a year, not including overtime. The city of Spokane and the federal government are paying his defense costs in the civil and criminal cases against him.
A federal magistrate ruled Thursday that the federal government should pay for the defense of Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. as he faces felony charges stemming from the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm. Also Thursday, Thompson appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to violating Zehm’s rights by using unreasonable force and to lying to investigators about the struggle.