SPOKANE, Wash. -- A sentencing hearing began Thursday morning for a former Spokane officer convicted of using excessive force on a mentally disabled man.
Otto Zehm was beaten at the hands of Spokane police six years ago. He died in the hospital days later. Karl F. Thompson Jr. was convicted by a federal jury of using excessive force and lying to investigators in 2011.
Thompson appeared stoic as he entered the courtroom for the hearing, and has showed little emotion during the hearing thus far.
Friends and family are expected to speak in front of the judge to ask for a short sentence. Prosecutors say they will call two to three witnesses, while the defense plans on calling five in a process that should last all day.
Thompson has been free since the case unfolded in court, with the exception of spending one night in the Bonner County Jail. The prosecution asked U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle to detain Thompson immediately following the hearing if he decides to send the former officer to prison. U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin said Thompson clearly committed aggravated assault under sentencing guidelines. Federal prosecutors have asked Judge Van Sickle to sentence Thompson to nine to 11 years in prison. Prosecutor Victor Boutros said Thompson must be held accountable because no one is above the law.
The prosecution rehashed much of what was already discussed during the trial. They told the judge it must have been horrific for Zehm and brought up his last words: "All I wanted was a Snickers."
Prosecutors say Thompson would not have used a baton in this instance if he did not intend to inflict pain. The attorneys showed the baton Thompson used against Zehm to the courtroom, as well as a spreadsheet of the “19 insults” to Zehm’s body, autopsy photos showing the blows to his head and pictures of Zehm hooked up to a ventilator. An analysis done by Boise police shows Thompson’s testimony does not match the Zip Trip surveillance video based on these facts, according to Durkin.
Defense lawyers are asking that the 65-year-old Thompson, a 40-year police veteran, receive no prison time. His attorneys are already working to appeal the conviction. They will speak once the prosecutors finish.
KREM 2 News Reporter Ashley Korslien will be live tweeting the sentencing. Follow her @AshleyKorslien.