Feds seek Zehm costs
Thompson could be forced to pay $824,163
December 22, 2012 - Updated: December 25, 3:16 p.m.
Federal prosecutors on Friday filed documents asking a judge to force convicted former Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. to pay more than $800,000 to cover lost wages, medical bills and attorneys fees stemming from the beating of Otto Zehm.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin submitted the request last week but updated it Friday, seeking to have U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle order Thompson to pay a total of $824,163.
That money would be split between Zehm’s mother and costs incurred by the city of Spokane for the settlement of a civil suit also stemming from Thompson’s violent confrontation with the unarmed Zehm in 2006.
“The millions of dollars of local community resources that were expended to defend Defendant’s criminal, obstructive conduct in the civil suit do not appear, unfortunately, to be recoverable in a restitution judgment,” Durkin wrote.
Following a four-week trial in Yakima, a jury convicted Thompson on Nov. 2, 2011, of using excessive force and lying to investigators about his March 18, 2006, confrontation with the mentally disabled Zehm, who suffered at least 13 blows from a baton and several shocks by a Taser.
While Thompson was the first to confront Zehm, several other officers joined in the struggle and eventually hogtied Zehm and placed him on his stomach, against department policy. Another officer placed a mask over his face, and Zehm stopped breathing moments later. He never regained consciousness and died two days later.
Van Sickle last month sentenced Thompson to 51 months in federal prison and denied a request by defense attorney Carl Oreskovich to allow the decorated former officer to remain out of prison pending his appeal.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons had listed Thompson as residing at the Federal Detention Center Sea-Tac in Seattle. But a check Friday showed that prison officials had Thompson “in transit” to another facility.
In his court filing, Durkin asked Van Sickle to order Thompson to pay back the $37,410 in medical bills derived from Zehm’s treatment at Deaconess Medical Center; the estimated $208,635 worth of wages Zehm was expected to have earned had he survived; and the $578,118 paid to Ann Zehm’s attorneys as part of the $1.67 million civil settlement with the city.
If awarded, the attorney’s fees would go to Zehm’s mother and estate. The amounts for lost wages and medical bills would go to the city because it technically already paid those amounts as part of the civil settlement. But Ann Zehm and the estate would be paid first, according to court records.
Oreskovich has until Jan. 14 to submit written arguments as to why Thompson should not be ordered to pay restitution. Efforts to reach Oreskovich late Friday were unsuccessful.
Prior to his indictment in 2009, Thompson divorced his wife and left their home, valued at the time at $675,000, in his wife’s name. As a result, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno declared Thompson indigent and appointed Oreskovich’s law firm to represent him at the public’s expense.
As of Thursday, Van Sickle had approved payments of $564,188 to Oreskovich’s firm to cover defense of Thompson and another $30,294 to cover the costs of transcripts from the trial and sentencing, according to the court clerk.