Cops accuse Feds of intimidation in Zehm case



Posted on September 22, 2009 at 4:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 30 at 11:35 AM

Click links below for more details

SPOKANE -- Spokane Police officers accused of misconduct in the Otto Zehm case are fighting back, accusing federal investigators of intimidation.

Last week, the U.S. Attorney's Office asked a judge to stop the civil case against Spokane Police officer Karl Thompson and several others officers until the criminal case against Thompson was over.

Otto Zehm died three and a half years ago after Thompson and other officers beat and tased him in a North Spokane Zip Trip.

Also last week, prosecutors accused police investigators of withholding information and even lying about the case. They've also accused Assistant City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi of misusing the ongoing civil case to defend his clients in the criminal case.

After combing through more than 50 pages of documents, KREM 2 News found that now the accused officers and Treppiedi are turning the tables on federal agents, accusing them of intimidation, false statements and of pushing their own agenda.

The motion includes more than a dozen affidavits from everyone including Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks, responding officers and Spokane Police detectives.

Detective Mark Burbridge, who worked on the Zehm investigation, takes U.S. Attorney Tim Durkin head on, claiming Durkin accused him of "filing false reports" and threatened him with a perjury charge.

When Burbridge refused to talk to Durkin outside a grand jury hearing, Burbridge says Durkin raised his voice, crooked his finger, and ordered Burbridge to come with him. Burbridge says he told Durkin to "pound sand."

Other officers say they too were brought into a small conference room before testifying, where one got the sense federal investigators wanted them to say Karl Thompson was out of control, and that their questioning "was both intimidating and inappropriate."

Another officer was allegedly told "new evidence" had come up, and that "now was the time for [him] to change [his] testimony."

A third officer says investigators told him they "understood why officers were lying to help Karl Thompson, but now was the time to be truthful."

Over and over again, officers who testified before a grand jury say Durkin asked them about conversations they had with Treppiedi, information some thought was privileged.

As for an initial account that Zehm lunged at Officer Thompson before he was struck, Assistant Spokane Police Chief Jim Nicks, who has been accused of making that false statement, claims he doesn't remember who said that, and neither do any of the other officers in the motion.

Also, officers claimed they knew nothing about the gag order imposed by Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirpatrick that Durkin says was allegedly violated by Treppiedi.