November 16, 2012 | 10:09am
In a case with eery similarities to the 2011 police beating death of Kelly Thomas in Fullerton, a veteran Spokane, Washington cop yesterday received a 51-month prison sentence in the excessive force death of a mentally disable man.
Officer Karl Thompson, 65, lead the charge against 36-year-old Otto Zehm, a school janitor who was falsely accused of a petty crime in 2006 and then hog-tied, severely beaten in the head with a baton and tasered until he died.
In the Orange County case, a group of Fullerton Police Department cops falsely accused the unarmed, Schizophrenic Thomas, 37, of a petty crime and then beat him to death--including crushing bones in his face with the butt of a steel Taser gun while he was being held down, punched and kicked.
In both cases, defense lawyers for the offending officers claim there is no evidence that the severe beatings killed the innocent citizens who had been minding their own business before police decided to target them.
(Zehm's finally words were, "All I wanted was a Snickers bar." Thomas' dying gasps were, "Dad!")
Also, in both cases, cops initially lied about events and public sentiment erupted against police brutality.
Unlike the Spokane case, however, the U.S. Department of Justice isn't assisting Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who has charged three Fullerton cops with felonies in Thomas' death.
"When officers abuse their power and lie to cover it up, it fundamentally undermines their position of trust in the community," federal prosecutor Victor Boutros, who worked on the Spokane case, told a reporter.
Fullerton cops Manuel Ramos, Jay Cicinelli and Joseph Wolfe--all of whom were fired--face a future jury trial.
Police unions in California assert that cops can use lethal force anytime an officer asserts that he believed his life was in jeopardy--even when the killed person was unarmed and innocent of any criminal activity.