Friday, September 21, 2012
Former Spokane Police Officer Karl Thompson will face sentencing more than a year after being convicted of violating Otto Zehm's civil rights by using excessive force and then lying to federal investigators about the incident, U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle decided today. Van Sickle set a sentencing hearing for Nov. 15 at 9 am.
Because Van Sickle did not see him as a flight risk or danger to the public, Thompson has been free since the conviction, with the exception of one night in Bonner County Jail immediately following the trial.
Thompson sat stone-faced as government representatives and his own legal counsel negotiated the date with the judge. (Thompson's attorney, public defender Carl Oreskovich, is out of town, so another lawyer filled in for him.) Each side said it plans to call three to five witnesses to testify regarding Thompson's sentence, agreeing testimony should take about one day in total.
Jeffry Finer, an attorney who has represented the Zehm family in a civil case against the city, asked for clarification on whether the family would be allowed to testify at the hearing. The judge assured him family members would be allowed to speak in person or through written testimony, depending on their preference. Finer will also be allowed to speak.
In 2006, two young girls erroneously reported Zehm, a 36-year-old mentally ill janitor, to police as a robber. In a north Spokane Zip Trip, Thompson beat Zehm with his baton and shocked him with a Taser before more officers arrived. Zehm was left hog-tied on the floor and later lost consciousness and died. Read our in-depth coverage of that night and the case against Thompson here.