SPOKANE, Wash – Former Spokane Police officer Karl Thompson will be sentenced in Federal Court in downtown Spokane in less than a month, after being convicted last year of using excessive force and lying about it to investigators in the 2006 beating death of Otto Zehm.
Thompson may be taken to jail directly from the courtroom, but questions remain as to how long he'll be there.
U.S. prosecutors are asking for a maximum sentence of just over 11 years, but in newly released federal court documents, Thompson's defense team says anything over 10 years is unconstitutional because it exceeds what the maximum penalty allowed.
Instead, they plan to ask for a sentence ranging from just over a year to just over two years.
In other court documents, U.S. prosecutors had said Thompson never showed remorse or accepted responsibility, so they requested a mental health evaluation.
However, Thompson's defense team says that's not true. In court documents they write, "Karl Thompson has been, and remains, deeply affected by this incident and the death of Otto Zehm and regards it as both a personal and public tragedy."
But it's hard to argue anyone has been more affected by Otto Zehm's death than his own family.
In letters written to the court detailing how his loss has affected them, a representative for Zehm's mother, Anna, writes, "The most painful part of Otto's death is that his death could have been prevented. She has desperately wished those involved would tell her they're sorry."
Zehm's cousin, Sandy, writes, "It's not easy to accept that Otto was here one day and gone the next. He died alone and we never had a chance to say goodbye. …We don't know how to express our loss. We hurt the most when we imagine what Otto was going through in his own mind when he was attacked."
Almost a dozen such letters have been written. Those family members and others will have the chance to read them aloud at Karl Thompson's sentencing on November 15th.