Spokane officer admits lying about Zehm beating

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A Spokane police officer has pleaded guilty to a charge that he lied to federal agents about the fatal beating of a mentally disabled man.

KXLY-TV reports ( http://is.gd/LZKIj6) that Officer Tim Moses was given a yearlong suspended sentence Tuesday for making a false statement and that he's losing his job on the force. As part of the plea agreement, Moses agreed never to work in law enforcement again.

His statements concerned the case of Otto Zehm, who was beaten to death in 2006 by police who suspected him of stealing money from a convenience store ATM.

Moses, 52, was not involved in Zehm's arrest, but he told a grand jury three years later what his friend, Officer Karl Thompson, relayed to him about the incident. He later changed his story to one more favorable to Thompson's defense against excessive force charges.

Thompson was convicted in federal court in 2011 of using excessive force against Zehm and lying about the encounter to investigators.

Thompson was the first police officer to confront Zehm, 36, in a Spokane convenience store and immediately attacked him with his baton. Other officers joined in, and Zehm died two days later.

Moses told a grand jury under oath in 2009 that Thompson told him he felt threatened by Zehm because Zehm "lunged" at him with a Pepsi bottle. Store security video, along with witness statements, later showed that no such "lunge" occurred.

But in 2010, Moses told federal investigators that he no longer remembered Thompson using the word "lunge."

Moses also reversed his position on baton strikes delivered by Thompson.

In 2009, Moses told the grand jury in sworn testimony that Thompson told him that he had struck Zehm in the head, neck and upper torso with his baton and that he relayed that information to the ambulance company which transported Zehm to the hospital. But in 2010, Moses met with federal officials and told them he no longer remembered telling an ambulance employee that Thompson had struck Zehm in the head, neck and upper torso.

Instead, Moses said he remembered Thompson saying that he struck Zehm in the "leg and then again a number of times all over," according to an FBI report.

The location of the baton strikes is important. Striking an individual in the head with a baton is considered deadly force, which requires a higher threshold for justified use.


Information from: KXLY-TV, http://www.kxly.com/

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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