Former Spokane Officer Faces 4 Years In Federal Prison

Nov 19, 2012

A former Spokane police officer was taken away in handcuffs Thursday night, more than one year after being convicted, and more than six years after Spokane man Otto Zehm died. Paige Browning reports on Karl F. Thompson Jr.’s sentencing.

Thompson will spend just over four years in federal prison for his actions that led to Zehm’s death. U.S. Marshals took Thompson into custody at the end of his sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle.

Last year a federal jury convicted the former officer of using excessive force and lying to investigators about the incident. In 2006 Thompson found Zehm at a Zip Trip and beat him with a baton -- giving him seven strikes in eight seconds at one point -- and stunned him with a taser gun. Zehm was incorrectly thought to be a theft suspect, and died two days later.

Thompson’s attorney Carl Oreskovich says the sentence is too harsh. He spoke briefly with media outside the courthouse.

Oreskovich: “It’s been a hard fought case, there are issues upon issues that will go up on appeal, and the issues are substantial.”

Awaiting the sentencing, Otto’s mom wrote a letter to have read aloud in court. Her attorney Breean Beggs read on her behalf that from a young age Otto was a gentle person, and “I am still waiting for an apology from Karl Thompson. I forgive Karl Thompson”.

Mrs. Zehm may now have part of that apology.

Thompson spoke briefly and said “I’m deeply sorry for the loss of Mr. Zehm. I’m also a parent. I know nothing equals the love of our children,” and “Mr. Zehm will always be a part of me.”

Thompson will spend over four years in prison, and must face restitution within 90 days.

Copyright 2012 Spokane Public Radio