SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Defense lawyers say a former Spokane police officer should not spend any time in prison for using excessive force against a mentally disabled janitor who died after being arrested on suspicion of stealing money from an ATM.
Public humiliation and the loss of his career are punishment enough for Karl F. Thompson Jr., his attorneys say.
Federal prosecutors counter that Thompson should get 10 years in prison for his treatment of 36-year-old Otto Zehm more than six years ago.
They argued in court documents that Thompson has failed to accept responsibility for his actions and for "the adverse impact he has had on the community's view of other outstanding, hardworking, and honest law enforcement officers."
Thompson, 65, was convicted last year by a federal jury of violating Zehm's civil rights by using excessive force and then lying to investigators in the case that shook public confidence in the Spokane Police Department.
He is expected to be sentenced on Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle.
A pre-sentencing report by court staff members recommended that Thompson, a Vietnam veteran and 40-year police officer, be given at least 27 months behind bars.
Defense attorney Carl Oreskovich disagreed, writing in court documents that Thompson "is a man of truly outstanding character whose convictions are an aberration when compared to a lifetime of earnest dedication to law enforcement."
On March 18, 2006, police received a report that a man matching Zehm's description might have stolen money from an ATM. Surveillance video showed Thompson found Zehm inside a convenience store and immediately struck him repeatedly with a baton and shocked him with a stun gun.
Other officers arrived and hogtied Zehm, put a rubber mask over his mouth, and sat on him. Zehm passed out and died two days later without regaining consciousness. It was later determined that he had not committed the crime.
His last words were: "All I wanted was a Snickers bar," according to trial testimony. Continued...