by Jacob Jones
Federal prosecutors concluded their sentencing arguments this morning in the excessive force and obstruction of justice case against former Spokane Police officer Karl Thompson stemming from the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.
Asst. U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin asked the judge to sentence Thompson to nine to 11 years in prison, arguing the officer had used a deadly weapon to intentionally inflict pain when he repeatedly struck Zehm on March 18, 2006. Zehm died two days later.
"Officer Thompson knowingly utilized force that was likely to cause serious injury or death," Durkin says.
Family and supporters of both Zehm and Thompson filled the small U.S. District Courtroom this morning, with others sitting in a nearby overflow room throughout the morning arguments.
Thompson sat stone still with a slight frown all morning, only occasionally stirring to review paperwork with his attorneys.
Zehm's supporters wiped at tears during Durkin's description of the violent encounter. They turned away or close their eyes when graphic autopsy photos were presented to the court.
Victor Boutros with the Justice Department also argued for a significant prison sentence, saying Thompson undermined the public's trust and covered up his misconduct.
"He just made up this story out of whole cloth," Boutros says.
Zehm's cousin, Dale Zehm, and other family members spoke of reliving the horror Otto must have felt as officers brutally beat him.
"I continue to struggle every day with what Otto went through," Dale Zehm says, adding, "I never want this to happen to anyone else."
Prosecutors ended their arguments shortly after noon. Judge Fred Van Sickle called a lunch recess with the defense making its arguments starting at 1:30 pm.