<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - The Kelly Thomas Case]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/feature/the-kelly-thomas-case http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Thu, 21 Aug 2014 01:16:27 -0700 Thu, 21 Aug 2014 01:16:27 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Ex-Officer in Thomas Case Wants Job Back]]> Wed, 22 Jan 2014 22:58:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cicinelli.jpg

More than 50 Fullerton residents packed City Hall's chambers Tuesday night to speak against the possible re-employment of a police officer acquitted in the death of Kelly Thomas.

The Kelly Thomas Case

The meeting marked the first time the public addressed the City Council since the Jan. 13 acquittal of former police Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli. In a single day of deliberation, jurors found the defendants not guilty in the 2011 beating death of the 37-year-old mentally ill transient.

At the meeting Tuesday, Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes spoke before the City Council, saying he stands behind his decision to not reinstate Cicinelli.

A day after Cicinelli was acquitted, his attorney, Zachery Lopes, said his client would begin the process of attempting to regain the post he lost in July 2012 through an administrative hearing.

The hearing, which can be public if Cicinelli chooses so, would lead to a recommendation to city officials, Lopes said. If city officials deny the request, Cicinelli can seek a "writ of mandate" in Orange County Superior Court, Lopes said.

If a Superior Court judge rules against Cicinelli, then he could try to appeal to higher courts, but that is not only rare, but also difficult to do, Lopes said.

An indictment against a third former officer was dismissed by prosecutors on Jan. 17.

It is unclear if Ramos or Joe Wolfe, a third former officer involved in the case, would try to have their posts back.

Watch: Kelly Thomas Case Verdict

Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, also attended the 2 1/2-hour meeting Tuesday and spoke before the City Council.

“I really do appreciate the anger, the travesty of this verdict," Ron Thomas told NBC4. "I just hope that they can get these guys on civil rights violations, at least to do some kind of time."

Thomas said he has met with the FBI and is moving forward with a civil case.

Kelly Thomas died five days after he was confronted in July 2011 by officers outside a Fullerton transit station.

City News Service contributed to this report



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[FBI to Examine Kelly Thomas Trial Evidence]]> Tue, 14 Jan 2014 08:46:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/212*120/ramos-cicinelli.JPG

Hours after two former police officers were acquitted of all charges in the 2011 beating death of a homeless man at a Fullerton, Calif., transit station, the FBI announced Monday it would examine evidence in the trial to see if further investigation is needed.

Jurors reached the verdicts in just one day regarding whether Fullerton Officer Manuel Ramos and former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli were responsible for the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. Both were found not guilty.

"In 2011, the FBI opened an investigation to determine if Mr. Thomas' civil rights were violated during the altercation with Fullerton police officers. With the conclusion of the state court trial, investigators will examine the evidence and testimony to determine if further investigation is warranted at the federal level," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a statement to NBC4.

Jury Finds Ex-Officers Accused in Kelly Thomas Death Not Guilty

Ramos, the first police officer in Orange County to be charged with murder while on duty, was found not guilty of one count each of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli was found not guilty of one count each of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.

Charges against a third former Fullerton police officer, Joseph Wolfe, will be dropped in light of the not guilty verdicts, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said outside the courtroom.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

"Where do we really find justice anymore in our justice system?" Ron Thomas, Kelly’s father, said after the verdict. "It has been proven right here today that they will get away with it. They will get away with it."

The case ignited outrage in the community and led to the recall of three Fullerton City Council members, the departure of the city’s police chief and a scathing report that accused the department of ignoring misconduct among its ranks.

Protesters gathered Monday night outside the Fullerton Police Department to rally against the officers’ acquittals. Demonstrators also rallied at the Fullerton Transportation Center, the site where police fought with Thomas in the summer of 2011 in the violent caught-on-camera confrontation.
 



Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Mom Slams Thomas Verdict]]> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 12:21:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-thomasmemoriallede.jpg

Protesters gathered on Monday evening to rally against the not guilty verdicts of two former officers in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man.

An Orange County jury found Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli not guilty of all charges -- including manslaughter -- in the 2011 death of Kelly Thomas. A surveillance video showed police pummeling and stun-gunning him.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Jury Acquits Officers | Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

Ron and Cathy Thomas told reporters that the verdict effectively tells police officers that they can kill people and get away with it.

"They got away with murdering my son,” Cathy Thomas said through tears. “It’s just not fair. I guess it’s legal to go out and kill now.”

Ron Thomas says the couple are "all torn up" by the verdict.

"This is so egregious ... the audio, the video ... Any bad cop can now just walk around and do what he wants to do to any of us," Thomas said. "We're all in trouble now."

However, Ramos attorney John Barnett says the officers were simply doing their jobs, committed no crime and had "no malice in their hearts."

"These peace officers were doing their jobs, operating as they were trained, no malice in their hearts, not out to get someone that night," Barnett said. "They were working."

Protesters gathered Monday night at the Fullerton Police Department where Ron Thomas spoke, saying he’s planning on using his son’s case to call on California legislators to change the police officer’s "Bill of Rights."

About a dozen demonstrators also rallied at the Fullerton Transportation Center, the site where police fought with Thomas in the summer of 2011.

People who supported Thomas' family called themselves "Kelly's Army," and many feel the DA let them down.

"What happened to that fire? He's lost it," said Joanne Sosa, a member of "Kelly's Army." "Now he doesn't want to appeal anything, doesn't  want to go after other officers? He says people had their day in court? That's a lie."

Others as far away as Oakland planned a solidarity march for Thomas.

Others, meanwhile, reacted on Twitter.

“Disturbed to hear about the outcome of the #KellyThomas case,” wrote Twitter user Kim Deniz. "Keep fighting for justice Fullerton."

Twitter user Jonathan Graves, wrote: #KellyThomas I will never be stopping in Fullerton, CA and I'm appalled by this ruling. This is not the world I want my kids growing up in.”

“If you haven't been following the story, look up #KellyThomas,” wrote Twitter user Erin Hutchinson. “Horrible abuse of power by police that lead to murder of a homeless man.”

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

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<![CDATA[3rd Ex-Officer in Thomas Case Won't Face Charges]]> Fri, 17 Jan 2014 17:01:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/joewolfe.jpg

UPDATE: Charges against Joseph Wolfe, the third former Fullerton police officer accused in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, were officially dropped on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.


An ex-police officer will not face charges in the beating death of a homeless man at a Fullerton transit station after two of his former colleagues were acquitted in the case Monday, the Orange County District Attorney said.

“We had a fair trial, we gave the jury all of the evidence and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to try to do that again,” OC DA Tony Rackauckas.

Former Officer Joseph Wolfe had been facing a count of manslaughter, but the case will be dropped, Rackauckas said.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Jury Acquits Officers | Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

That news came within hours of a jury acquitting former Fullerton Officer Manuel Ramos and former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli of all charges in the July 2011 beating death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man with schizophrenia.

Reaction was emotional on both sides after the verdict was read. Ramos and Cicinelli began to cry when they were acquitted, with Cicinelli hugging his attorney. Thomas’ father, Ron, burst into tears, kicking or stomping his foot.

“Despite the fact that he’s my son, I’ve never in my life seen something this bad happen to a human begin and then to have it happen by on-duty police officers and then they walk Scott free,” Ron Thomas told reports outside the courtroom.

Read: Kelly Thomas "Just Trying to Survive"

The case ignited outrage in the community and led to the recall of three Fullerton City Council members, the departure of the city’s police chief and a scathing report that accused the department of ignoring misconduct among its ranks.

Dozens of people attended the trial each day wearing yellow ribbons and buttons bearing Thomas' image.

"It's a disappointing day. It's a sad day," Julie McDonnell, a concerned citizen and 22-year resident of Fullerton, said outside the courtroom. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also called the verdict "disappointing."

The officers’ defense attorney, John Barnett, said his clients were acting within their rights.

“These peace officers were doing their jobs,” Barnett said. “They were operating as they were trained and they had no malice in their hearts, they were not out to get somebody that night. They were working.”

Read: Kelly Thomas Was "In Fight That He Started"

Jurors were handed the case on Jan. 9 and entered into deliberations on Monday, hours before the verdict came down.

The trial included five weeks of testimony highlighted by a key piece of surveillance video and audio recordings from the night of July 5, 2011, when Kelly Thomas encountered officers as they investigated a report of someone trying to break into vehicles near the Fullerton Transportation Center.

The video shows the confrontation escalate to violence involving six officers and Thomas, who suffered from schizophrenia. Thomas could be seen on the ground crying out for his father nearly 30 times, apologizing and begging for air.

Thomas struggled with officers, but only because he "was just trying to survive," the district attorney told jurors, adding that Thomas was never informed of intent to arrest him.

Thomas was taken to a hospital and placed on life support. He died at a hospital five days later.
Investigators later determined that Thomas was not responsible for the break-in attempts.

Defense attorneys claimed Thomas was a violent, unpredictable man who was to blame for the altercation because he was combative and ignored officers’ orders.

The coroner's report determined Thomas died from chest compression during the struggle.

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<![CDATA[Kelly Thomas Trial Resumes After Holiday Break]]> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 21:38:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fullerton-beating-subject-3.jpg

Closing arguments could begin as early as Tuesday in the trial of two ex-Fullerton officers accused in the fatal beating of a mentally ill homeless man.

Kelly Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic, was beaten in a struggle with officers during a call out at a Fullerton transportation center in 2011.

Ex-Officer Manuel Ramos and former Cpl. Jay Cicnelli are being tried in the case.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

Ramos is charged with second degree murder. Cicinelli is on trial for manslaughter and use of excessive force.

Police went to the Fullerton Transportation Center the night of the beating, July 5, in response to a 911 call from the nearby Slidebar nightclub that someone was trying to break into cars outside the club.

Mother in Custody After Baby Left Alone on Sidewalk

An altercation involving six officers and Thomas resulted in Thomas being taken to a hospital on life support. Thomas died five days later.

Investigators later determined Thomas was not responsible for the car break-in attempts.

Joseph Wolfe, a third officer involved in the incident, faces charges in a separate trial.

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<![CDATA[Defense Rests in Kelly Thomas Beating Case]]> Wed, 18 Dec 2013 14:52:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fullerton-beating-subject-3.jpg

Defense attorneys have rested their case in the trial of two Fullerton police officers accused in the beating death of Kelly Thomas.

Prosecutors in the trial of ex-Officer Manuel Ramos and former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli will begin presenting rebuttal witnesses on Thursday.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic, was beaten in a struggle with officers during a call out at a Fullerton transportation center in 2011.

Read: 3 in Custody After Burglary Leads to Standoff

Ramos is charged with second degree murder. Cicinelli is on trial for manslaughter and use of excessive force. It is the first time an on-duty officer in Orange County has been charged with murder.

Police went to the Fullerton Transportation Center the night of the beating in response to a 911 call from the nearby Slidebar nightclub that someone was trying to break into cars outside the club.

Investigators later determined Thomas was not responsible for the car break-in attempts.

A third officer, Joseph Wolfe, faces charges in a separate trial.

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<![CDATA[Witnesses Take Stand in Fullerton Police Beating Trial]]> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 23:05:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/KNBC_000000008507695_1200x675_89218115585.jpg Defense attorneys called seven witnesses to the stand on Thursday in the case of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man beaten to death by Fullerton police officers two summers ago. Vikki Vargas reports from Santa Ana for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Dec. 12, 2013.]]> <![CDATA[Doctor: Kelly Thomas' Body Had Signs of Shock]]> Tue, 10 Dec 2013 21:44:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-kellythomasbeating.jpg

A doctor testified on Tuesday that Kelly Thomas was in critical condition, his blood pressure far below normal, his heart beating twice as fast it should -- all signs of shock.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

Dr. Michael Lekawa testified in the trial against two ex-Fullerton officers accused in the fatal beating of Thomas, a homeless schizophrenic, who was beaten in a struggle with officers during a call out at a Fullerton transportation center in 2011.

Ron Thomas said that as time went by his son’s body began to fail. Five days later, Kelly Thomas was declared dead.

“They actually kept him on machines so we could gather the family and come back on the 10th,” Ron Thomas said.

Paramedics testified that Thomas had flat-lined when he was first taken to St. Jude Medical Center before being transferred to UCI.

It was there, Lekawa told the jury, that he found fractures on Thomas’ head, cuts on his face and beard and X-rays showed more injuries to his chest and pelvis.

Prosecutors say his death was the result of a beating by Fullerton police.

“That’s the thing that gets me, the brutality of his murder how they beat him continually,” Ron Thomas said.

Former Fullerton Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second degree murder.

Former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli is on trial for manslaughter and use of excessive force. It is the first time an on-duty officer in Orange County has been charged with murder.

Police went to the Fullerton Transportation Center the night of the beating in response to a 911 call from the nearby Slidebar nightclub that someone was trying to break into cars outside the club.

Investigators later determined Thomas was not responsible for the car break-in attempts.

A third officer, Joseph Wolfe, faces charges in a separate trial.

More Southern California Stories:



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Police Beating Caused Kelly Thomas Death: Coroner]]> Thu, 05 Dec 2013 21:37:20 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-kellythomascoroner.jpg

An Orange County pathologist testified on Thursday that Kelly Thomas died a slow and progressive death, that his voice got louder and then decreased until he couldn't breathe.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

Dr. Aruna Singhania showed jurors autopsy photos explaining how Thomas died of mechanical chest compressions, one after another.

She also testified that Thomas was brain dead, the result of a physical altercation with Fullerton police officers.

The first time Ron Thomas had seen those autopsy photos, he walked out of court. This time he stayed.

“No one can ever convince me it's OK to arrest someone like that, holding them from the neck up,” Ron Thomas said.

The testimony came in the trial of two former officers who are charged with killing 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. The mentally ill man struggled with six officers in a July 2011 confrontation and died days later at a hospital.

Former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second degree murder.

Former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli is on trial for manslaughter and use of excessive force. It is the first time an on duty officer in Orange County has been charged with murder.

Singhania, who performed the autopsy, says Thomas died from bronchial pneumonia and from a lack of oxygen to his brain that was caused by his chest being compressed during the struggle.

Jurors were shown images of Thomas's bloodied face in the hospital.

The defense has argued that Thomas died from overexerting a diseased heart. Singhania says Thomas had an enlarged heart - but that's not what killed him.

In a letter sent by Cicinelli's father to the state Attorney General, he accuses the Orange County District Attorney of misconduct.

He claims the same pathologist changed her story after meeting with prosecutors agreeing to list the cause of death as "compression suffocation" and from "unknown" to "homicide."

Defense attorneys asked the pathologist how she could be sure the officers' actions led to Kelly Thomas' death.

“In his statement Cicinelli says he had no other option but to beat Kelly 's face to hell. What about handcuffs? He never tried those,” Ron Thomas said.

Thomas, whose father said had schizophrenia, was fatally wounded July 5, 2011. He died after being removed from life support five days later.

Police went to the Fullerton Transportation Center the night of the beating in response to a 911 call from the nearby Slidebar nightclub that someone was trying to break into cars outside the club. Investigators later determined Thomas was not responsible for the car break-in attempts.

A third officer, Joseph Wolfe, faces charges in a separate trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

More Southern California Stories:



Photo Credit: Mona Edwards/NBCLA.com]]>
<![CDATA[Kelly Thomas Beating Video Evokes Sobs During Trial]]> Tue, 03 Dec 2013 20:20:19 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-kellythomas.jpg

The mother of a homeless man who died following a struggle with Fullerton police sobbed softly in court on Tuesday as prosecutors showed jurors video of the battle that led to her son's death.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

Cathy Thomas, the mother of Kelly Thomas, sat through the entire 34-minute video during the second day of the trial against the officers accused of beating her son.

“When it gets to the point where they strike the first blow, it gets to me,” Cathy Thomas said.

The video was synced to audio from the officers' digital audio recorders. The audio portion was then played again in court, requiring jurors to listen to the beating a second time.

In the audio, jurors could hear Kelly Thomas shouting, “Dad, dad, help me!”

“Hearing that was very painful,” Cathy Thomas said.

Thomas, whose father said had schizophrenia, was fatally wounded July 5, 2011. He died after being removed from life support five days later.

Police went to the Fullerton Transportation Center the night of the beating in response to a 911 call from the nearby Slidebar nightclub that someone was trying to break into cars outside the club. Investigators later determined Thomas was not responsible for the car break-in attempts.

Former Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second degree murder. Jay Cicinelli, a former Fullerton police corporal, is charged with using excessive force.

A third officer, Joseph Wolfe, faces charges in a separate trial.

Ron Thomas, a former sheriff deputy, says his late son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But the officers’ defense attorneys say there's no proof of the diagnosis.

More Southern California Stories:



Photo Credit: Mona Edwards]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Officers' Trial Begins in Homeless Man's Beating Death]]> Tue, 03 Dec 2013 17:50:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fullerton-beating-subject-3.jpg

The trial in the criminal case of two former Fullerton police officers accused of beating homeless man Kelly Thomas to death two summers ago began Monday.

On July 5, 2011, Thomas was hospitalized after an altercation with six Fullerton police officers at a bus depot. Police were called to the location to investigate a report of a vehicle break-in.

Thomas was hospitalized and died five days later when he was removed from life support.

Former Fullerton Police Department Officer Manuel Ramos is facing one felony count of second degree murder and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, Ramos faces up to 15 years in prison.

He is the first Orange County police officer to be charged with murder while on duty.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline | Fullerton Police Ignored Misconduct, Report Finds

Former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli is charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of the use of excessive force.

Prosecutors began their argument by accusing Ramos of threatening Thomas, saying, “Now you see these hands? They’re going to f--- you up.”

But the officer’s defense attorney John Barnett said that was a strategy – a “conditional threat” – Ramos used to avoid confrontation.

Thomas was initially questioned about breaking into cars at the Fullerton Transportation Center. The entire incident was captured on a surveillance camera.

Jurors on Monday were shown portions of that footage, but so far have only heard the officers’ calls for help.

Defense attorneys told the jury that Thomas was a time bomb whose years of methamphetamine use led to spontaneous psychotic episodes.

They spoke of a time when Thomas allegedly beat his 73-year-old grandfather with a fireplace poker.

Ron Thomas, Kelly's father, said his son had mental issues, did not use drugs and on the night he was beaten, had actually surrendered by putting his hands up.

Ron Thomas was at the bus depot Sunday where his son was beaten to death. He said a candlelight vigil was being prepared ahead of the trial.

Ron said he hopes the jury will understand that his son is schizophrenic and not violent.

“This is our day,” he said. “It's finally here.”

Barnett spoke with NBC4 by phone, saying his client was doing his job. Barnett said he believes the video will help his defense.

“We're going to put the video in context of the entire evening, and two decades that preceded it,” Barnett said. “I think when we do that the video will show no crimes were committed by police officers that night.”

The defense argues that Thomas ignored officer orders and fought with them.

“This use of violence is something that happened many times in Kelly Thomas’ past,” Barnett said.

A 13-page, 60-item questionnaire helped to narrow down a prospective jury pool from 2,000 to 117 in November.

Ron said he was told that the trial may run into January.

“For me, it's like opening wounds that never closed to begin with,” he said.

A hearing for a third officer, Joseph Wolfe, is slated for late January.

More Southern California Stories:

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<![CDATA[Jury Selection Starts in Kelly Thomas Beating Case]]> Wed, 20 Nov 2013 10:14:29 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ramos-cicinelli-thomas-fullerton-2shot.jpg

Jury selection began on Monday in the criminal case of two former police officers accused of beating to death Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, at a Fullerton bus depot two summers ago.

Full Coverage: Kelly Thomas Case

Attorneys questioned potential jurors in the trial of former Fullerton Police Department Cpl. Jay Cicinelli and Officer Manuel Ramos, who are charged in connection with the in-custody beating death of 37-year-old Thomas.

A 13-page, 60-item questionnaire helped to narrow down a prospective jury pool from 2,000 to 117 on Monday.

Prospective jurors were asked, in writing, their thoughts about the homeless and if there is any history of mental illness in their families, according to a copy of the questionnaire obtained by NBC4.

Experts said the selection process is done that way because jurors tend to be more truthful when they write down their answers.

"It's easy to say, 'You kill somebody therefore you're guilty if it's proven beyond a reasonable doubt,' but there’s so much nuance to this because of law enforcement, because of mental illness, because of some prior conduct,” said Michael Molfetta, a criminal defense attorney not affiliated with the case.

“All these types of things, a jury’s gotta go through a lot of mental gymnastics," Molfetta said.

Molfetta predicts the defense will repeatedly play surveillance video of Thomas being beaten, hoping not to shock but to desensitize the jury. In the video, Thomas can be heard crying out for help.

Attorneys for the officers said the use of force was necessary.

Jurors will also see photos of Thomas in a coma, images initially made public his by father.

Thomas' father, Ron, said he hoped jurors could see through the "smoke and mirrors" of the defense's arguments.

"Their biggest defense is to make Kelly look like a horrible, drug-crazed maniac with all these abilities to hurt people," he said. "It's just not the case."

Thomas, who had schizophrenia and a history of run-ins with police, was beaten on July 5, 2011, during a police call-out to a suspected car vandal. He never regained consciousness and was removed from life support at UC Irvine Medical Center on July 10, 2011.

The judge has gone on record saying there has been a significant amount of pre-trial publicity in this case, but is asking if jurors would be able to put what they know about the case aside when the trial begins on Dec. 2.

Officials expect to have the jury in place by Thursday.

Ramos was charged with one felony count of second degree murder and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years to life in state prison.

Cicinelli was charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of the use of excessive force. If convicted, he faces up to four years in state prison.

A third officer, Joseph Wolfe, (pictured at right) faces charges in a separate trial. He’s expected to appear in court on Jan. 24, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.

Ron Thomas, a former Orange County Sheriff's deputy, has filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Fullerton and its police department.

More Southern California Stories:

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<![CDATA[Ex-Officer Will Face Charges in Kelly Thomas Beating]]> Sat, 03 Aug 2013 09:38:55 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/joewolfe.jpg

An Orange County judge has refused to dismiss a manslaughter charge against a former Fullerton police officer for the death of Kelly Thomas, who was beat by police two years ago.

Superior Court Judge William Froeberg says a jury should decide whether former Fullerton Officer Joseph Wolfe's rights were violated and there was insufficient evidence to convict him of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force, as his lawyers had argued.

Wolfe is one of three former officers facing trial over the July 2011 death of Thomas.

Full Coverage: Kelly Thomas Case

Officers beat Thomas, a 37-year-old with schizophrenia who had a long history of run-ins with police, on July 5, 2011 during a police call-out to a suspected car vandal.

Thomas never regained consciousness and was removed from life support at UC Irvine Medical Center on July 10.

Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with one felony count of second degree murder and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison.

Corporal Jay Cicinelli was charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of the use of excessive force. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.

Wolfe faces up to four years in prison.

All three pleaded not guilty.

Ron Thomas, a former Orange County Sheriff's deputy, has filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Fullerton and its police department.

More Southern California Stories:

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<![CDATA[Officers in Kelly Thomas Beating Face Trial]]> Sat, 03 Aug 2013 09:07:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jay+Cicinelli+and+Manuel+Ramos.jpg

An Orange County Superior Court judge Friday refused to separate the cases of two former Fullerton police officers charged in the in-custody beating death of schizophrenic transient Kelly Thomas and set an Oct. 18 trial date.

Former Fullerton police Cpl. Jay Cicinelli wanted to have his trial separately from co-defendant former Officer Manuel Anthony Ramos, but Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg's ruling means a jury will consider both of their cases at the same time.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Full Coverage | Timeline

Another co-defendant, former Officer Joe Wolfe, has a motion to dismiss charges pending before Froeberg that is scheduled to be heard July 12.

In January, Froeberg declined to dismiss charges against Ramos, who is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the July 5, 2011, beating, pictured below in bus depot surveillance footage. On March 7, an appeals court panel denied Ramos' appeal.

Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.

The dismissal motion revolved around an allegation that Ramos held up his fists to Thomas, threatening to “(expletive) him up,” which Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said frightened Thomas, prompting him to run away from the officers and triggering the deadly conflict.

Rackauckas said Thomas had a right to defend himself, and that he appeared confused and flustered by Ramos' commands.

Ramos' attorney, John Barnett, however, argued that Ramos told Thomas he would only carry out his threat if Thomas failed to obey his instructions. Barnett argued it was akin to a police officer saying, “Stop, or I'll shoot,” to a suspect.

Under the prosecution's legal theory, if an officer shouted a similar order at a car thief and the suspect turned and ran, causing a school bus full of 30 children to roll over, killing all of the passengers, the officer would be held liable for their deaths, Barnett said after Froeberg's ruling.

Froeberg, however, ruled the videotape of Thomas' beating was sufficient evidence to go forward with a trial.

It is likely Wolfe will be tried separately since his indictment came a year after charges were filed against the other co-defendants.
Police went to the Fullerton Transportation Center in response to a 911 call from the nearby Slidebar nightclub that someone was trying to break into cars outside the club. Investigators have determined Thomas was not trying to break into cars.

Wolfe and Ramos confronted Thomas at the transportation center. While Wolfe went through a backpack Thomas had with him, Ramos and Thomas engaged in a lengthy, often sarcastic and prickly, exchange.

Wolfe found letters in the backpack addressed to an attorney, prompting him and Ramos to discuss arresting Thomas for possession of stolen property. Investigators later determined the letters were not stolen.

Thomas ran from the officers after Ramos held his fists up to him and ordered him to follow his instructions, officials said. That touched off the skirmish that ultimately included six officers as they worked to restrain Thomas.

Ramos faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of second-degree murder but only four years if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli and Wolfe face a maximum sentence of four years in prison, if found guilty.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Video Released in Kelly Thomas Case]]> Fri, 01 Mar 2013 10:51:56 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/kelly-thomas-video-march1.jpg

Newly released video shows Kelly Thomas may have been behaving differently than previous reports indicated prior to his fatal beating in 2011.

Attorneys who represent an Orange County bar on Thursday released the surveillance video from the night Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, was involved in a fatal confrontation with Fullerton police officers in 2011. He died days later.

In addition to the surveillance video, the attorneys released a taped deposition from a former bouncer, as they try to defend against a wrongful-termination lawsuit.

In the deposition video from October 2012, Michael Reeves testified he heard the manager of The Slidebar call police to report Thomas was breaking into cars.

"She was standing next to me, and we were both looking at the same vantage point, Kelly Thomas, and that's why I believe it to be a false police report," Reeves said in the deposition video.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Continuing Coverage | Timeline

Attorneys for The Slidebar say surveillance video shows the manager walking away from Reeves. The attorneys contend Reeves could not have heard the phone call.

"His name is Kelly, roaming the parking lot, looking in cars, pulling on handles again," the manager said, in the phone call made to police.

The surveillance video shows Thomas, shirtless, wandering through the parking lot, just minutes before the beating.

His father, Ron Thomas, says the video does not show his son pulling on any car handles. He believes the new video proves his son was not a thief.

"Even if he was burglarizing, even if he had car stereos in his hand, it has nothing to do with the officers' conduct," Ron Thomas said.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office told NBC4 the release of the new video will not affect the criminal case against the Fullerton police officers.

The video is now part of the bar's defense in a $4 million lawsuit filed by Reeves.

The bar's owner, Jeremy Popoff, says allegations that he had a policy to harass the homeless are untrue.

"The damage has been done to my business and my reputation, so we're not dropping it now," Popoff said.

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<![CDATA[Request to Drop Charges in Kelly Thomas Case Denied]]> Fri, 11 Jan 2013 17:14:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Jay+Cicinelli+and+Manuel+Ramos.jpg

A judge has denied two Fullerton police officers' request to drop charges against them in the fatal beating of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill homeless man, according to court documents obtained by NBC4 on Friday.

In a Jan. 4 decision (PDF), Orange County Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg ruled there was enough "competent evidence to show the commission of a crime or the defendant's connection with it."

According to the ruling, the judge didn't want to rule on whether or not reasonable force was used. Instead, that matter should be left to a jury, he wrote.

Document: Tentative Ruling on Motion to Dismiss (warning: contains graphic language)

"It is the court's tentative decision to deny each defendant's motion to dismiss," Froeberg wrote.

Former Officer Manuel Anthony Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force.

Thomas was beaten by six Fullerton police officers on July 5, 2011. The 37-year-old schizophrenic man died a few days later.

A third former officer, Joseph Wolfe, was charged with one felony count each of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force. Wolfe pleaded not guilty in September.

Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline, Photos, Previous Stories

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 18.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Thomas "Satisfied" With Charges Against 3rd Officer]]> Sat, 29 Sep 2012 07:07:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/ron+thomas+newser.jpg

Ron Thomas, the father of a mentally ill homeless man who was fatally beaten last year during a confrontation with Fullerton police, said on Friday that he’s satisfied with the charges brought against former officer Joseph Wolfe earlier this week.

“Wolfe came down and beat him severely with a baton and then followed up as we’ve seen with the knees, the elbows, first one to attack him, the last one off of him and he managed to stay there and hold him the entire time for everyone else to do their part,” Thomas said during a Friday news conference at his lawyer’s office.

Thomas and his lawyer sat a table against a backdrop of photos depicting Kelly Thomas throughout his life.

Since July 2011, Thomas has been trying to get murder charges against the 13-year veteran of the force. On Thursday, Wolfe pleaded not guilty to one felony count each of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.

Thomas said Orange County prosecutors have finally zeroed in on the man who he believes was more responsible for his son’s death than the five other officers who responded to a Fullerton bus depot on July 5, 2011, on a report that a homeless-looking man was trying to break into cars.

Wolfe – one of the first two officers on the scene – is accused of tackling Thomas to the ground with ex-cop Manuel Ramos, kneeing and punching Thomas, and using his body weight to minimize Thomas’ movement as the other officers arrived, the DA said.

Kelly Thomas died five days after the confrontation. Wolfe is the third former Fullerton police officer to face charges in his death.

“It was well worth the wait because we did need Officer Wolfe to be charged since he was the first one to club Kelly that night,” said Garo Mardirossian, Ron Thomas’ attorney.

“He was the only one that we could see on surveillance video kneeing Kelly in the chest repeatedly that broke numerous bones in Kelly’s ribs and chest. He’s the one that’s seen elbowing Kelly in the face with heavy elbow blows which broke his nose, his cheekbone, and which caused him to bleed internally and eventually drown in his own blood.”

As to why it took prosecutors so long to charge Wolfe, Mardirossian has a theory.

“At the preliminary hearing, it became evident that the lawyers for the two other officers basically threw Wolfe under the bus,” Mardirosssian said. “They clearly said that the person throwing the blows, the person that beat Kelly to death, was not their client. It was somebody else and that somebody else is Wolfe.”

Wolfe’s attorney maintains he is innocent, and that his client took no more than appropriate action within the law.

In May, former officers Ramos and Jay Cicinelli were ordered to stand trial for their role in Thomas’ death. The pair entered not guilty pleas.

Former officer Manuel Ramos is facing second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Former corporal Jay Cicinelli is facing involuntary manslaughter.

If convicted on the murder charge, Ramos faces 15 years to life. Both officers face up to four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Wolfe was no longer employed by the city of Fullerton as of July 16. Three other officers involved in the incident have returned to duty.

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<![CDATA[Kelly Thomas to be Cleared of Wrongdoing]]> Mon, 17 Sep 2012 16:35:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fullerton-beating-subject-3.jpg

Fullerton city officials are expected on Tuesday to clear Kelly Thomas of wrongdoing, his father said.

Thomas is the homeless man who died after being beaten by police on July 5, 2011.

Full Coverage: The Kelly Thomas Case

Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron, said he has been trying to clear his son’s name for 14 months. He said police wrongfully accused his son of committing crimes and suggested he was resisting arrest during the videotaped beating at a Fullerton bus station.

Ron Thomas called the clearing of his son’s name “another victory in the pursuit of justice for my son Kelly Thomas.”

Ron Thomas said he has been working over the last three weeks with acting Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes on wording that clears his son’s name. Fullerton officials are expected to announce the news at a Fullerton City Council meeting on Tuesday.

Kelly Thomas died five days after the beating.

Ron Thomas, who is also suing the city over the death, said police initially said his son stole a backpack and that someone fitting his description was breaking into cars.

Two of the six officers involved in the beating are being tried in court. The case prompted a recall of three Fullerton City Councilmen in June, and the retirement of the former police chief.

An independent review of the case determined that the Fullerton Police Department "suffered from a culture of complacency."

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<![CDATA[Report: Fullerton PD Ignored Misconduct]]> Wed, 22 Aug 2012 06:12:17 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-kellythomasbeating.jpg

For years, the Fullerton Police Department -- which is at the center of an investigation into the fatal beating of Kelly Thomas last July -- suffered from a "culture of complacency that came from the top down" and misconduct that should have been addressed was ignored, according to an independent report commissioned by the City of Fullerton.

"More can and should be done in reforming the way in which [the Fullerton Police Department] hires and trains its officers, investigates and reviews uses of force, learns from those force incidents, holds its officers accountable and considers improvements in policy," according to the 53-page report by Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Los Angeles Office of Independent Review.

In his third and final report, Gennaco recommends nearly 60 ways to reform the city's embattled police department, including the creation of a corps of specially trained officers to interact with the city's homeless population, to which Thomas belonged.

"Did he behave the way you'd want a model citizen to behave? Probably not," Gennaco said. "But he's a mentally ill homeless individual.

"Police officers should expect, in certain cases, that not everyone's going to love having to deal with police officers and should learn how to deal with those kinds of cases in a way that's professional and doesn't necessarily need to resort to force."

Ron Thomas, the victim's father, says he was briefed on the contents of the report before Gennaco presented it to the Fullerton City Council Tuesday night.

Thomas said that of the 59 recommendations outlined in the report, he agreed with all but one -- that three of the six officers at the scene of the beating will be allowed to keep their jobs. About a dozen of those recommendations are already in effect and Thomas said Genacco assured him the rest will be implemented.

Tuesday’s report is the latest in a series meant to examine the department’s internal affairs and how best to handle information during major incidents. The investigation was commissioned following the in-custody death of a 37-year-old homeless man.

The first public report – released in February – called for improved processes within city law enforcement but found "no evidence of intent to deceive or falsity" on the part of Fullerton police in the aftermath of Thomas' death. 

That initial report gently chided the department for a series of missteps following Thomas' "tragic in-custody death," including releasing the dead man's mugshot from an unrelated event and failing to correct misinformation about the extent of officer injuries related to the altercation.

The second report, which focused on the actions of the officers involved, was released in May and presented privately to Capt. Dan Hughes, the acting police chief.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline

Thomas died on July 10, 2011, five days after he was involved in a nighttime altercation with six Fullerton police officers at a bus depot.

The confrontation was captured on surveillance and cellphone videos, in which Thomas can be heard repeatedly calling out for his father and pleading with the officers to stop. That footage synched with audio from recording devices worn by the officers depicts the July 5, 2011, encounter.

Then-officer Manuel Ramos’ exchange with Thomas can be heard on the audio recording:

Ramos: "Now you see my fists?"

Thomas: "Yeah, what about ‘em?"

Ramos: "They’re getting ready to 'f' you up."

Thomas: "Start punching dude."

The video shows Ramos and another officer striking Thomas, who was homeless and suffered from Schizophrenia, with their batons. More officers arrive including then-Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, who uses his stun gun.

In May, Ramos and Cicinelli were ordered to stand trial in Thomas’ death. Both men ended their employment with the city on July 3 and July 20 respectively.

Ramos faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, four years if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Another officer, Joe Wolfe, who was at the scene of the altercation but not ordered to stand trial, ended his career with Fullerton Police on July 16.

The other three officers involved in the incident will return to desk jobs at the Fullerton Police Department and will not be assigned to patrol, Hughes said in a statement Tuesday.

The latest report concluded that those officers were not "responsible for any criminal misconduct." But, Hughes said, they did violate "some policy guidelines and will be appropriately disciplined."

Outrage over the beating reached Fullerton City Hall, where three councilmembers were overwhelmingly voted out of office in June. The recall effort was spurred by organizers who cited a lack of transparency and leadership from the council in the wake of Thomas’ death.

A year after his son's beating, Thomas' father, Ron, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Fullerton.

Thomas' mother, Cathy, accepted a $1 million settlement with the city in May. In exchange, she agreed not to pursue any further claims or lawsuits seeking damages for the July 2011 death of her son.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[3rd Officer in Thomas Case Off the Force]]> Fri, 20 Jul 2012 23:06:59 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cicinelli.jpg

Jay Cicinelli on Friday became the third Fullerton police officer involved in last year’s fatal beating of a mentally ill homeless man to end his employment with the city, officials said.

“The employment status of Corporal Jay Cicinelli ended with the City of Fullerton, effective July 20, 2012,” Sgt. Jeff Stuart said in a statement released Friday.

In May, Cicinelli and former Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos were ordered to stand trial in the death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic man who died days after an altercation with six Fullerton police officers at a bus depot.

Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in Thomas’ death. Prior to Friday’s announcement, Cicinelli had been on unpaid leave.

Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline, Photos

Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. His 10-year career in law enforcement ended July 3.

Officer Joe Wolfe's 13-year career with the Fullerton police department ended on July 16, Fullerton Cpl. Tim Kandler said in a statement at the time.

The other three officers involved in the incident remain on paid administrative leave, Stuart said, adding that officials will not discuss any proposed discipline or the findings of an internal investigation.

Ramos faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of second-degree murder but only four years if convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Friday’s announcement brings the total number of city officials who have lost their municipal jobs in connection with the Thomas beating to six.

Three councilmen were overwhelmingly recalled in June, spearheaded by Fullerton residents who cited a lack of transparency and leadership in the wake of Thomas’ death.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Officer Involved in Thomas Case Off the Force]]> Tue, 17 Jul 2012 21:36:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-kellythomasbeating.jpg

In one week, the Fullerton Police Department announced that two of the six officers involved in the fatal beating of Kelly Thomas are no longer employed by the city.

Officer Joe Wolfe – who began his career with the Fullerton Police Department in 1999 – no longer works for the city as of Monday, July 16, Cpl. Tim Kandler said in a statement released Tuesday.

Acting Police Chief Dan Hughes has refrained from discussing the case further citing State employment laws that bar him from expounding on personnel issues, according to the statement.

Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline, Photos

The news comes one week after Fullerton police officials announced the termination of Manuel Ramos.

Ramos -- a 10-year veteran of the force -- was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic man who died days after being beaten by six police officers last year.

The status of the other officers involved in the beating remains the same, Kandler said. Three officers are on paid administrative leave, and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli remains on unpaid leave.

Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in connection with the 2011 beating.

If convicted on the murder charge, Ramos faces 15 years to life. Both officers face up to four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Not Guilty Pleas in Kelly Thomas Case]]> Mon, 17 Sep 2012 10:13:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ciciramosarraign.jpg

Two Fullerton police officers have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with last summer’s beating death of Kelly Thomas.

As expected, Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli entered their pleas on Friday in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana. The arraignment hearing last about 1 minute.

Their next court date is scheduled for July 27. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he predicts a two-month trial.  One central piece of evidence for the prosecution will be a  video tape of the beating.

"I don't see how you can watch it without having a very strong human, emotional reaction," Rackauckas said.

Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline, Photos

The Fullerton Police Department announced this week that Ramos no longer works at the Fullerton Police Department. Cicinelli remains on unpaid leave.

Ramos, a 10-year veteran of the force, was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic man who died days after being beaten by six police officers last summer.

Four other officers are on paid administrative leave. Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in connection with the beating.

If convicted on the murder charge, Ramos faces 15 years to life in prison. Both officers face up to four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Defense attorneys plan to file a motion claiming there is insufficient evidence for trial.

They say recently released audio of an interaction between Ramos and a homeless man named "Dave" proves that Ramos had a good relationship with homeless people.

Rackauckas said the defense's motions are "routine" in criminal cases, and that his office usual wins when judges make decisions on such motions.

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<![CDATA[Manuel Ramos No Longer City Employee: Police]]> Tue, 10 Jul 2012 21:41:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/144108825.jpg

The Fullerton Police Department no longer employs one of the two officers charged in the beating death of Kelly Thomas, an official has confirmed.

"Manuel Ramos is no longer a city employee as of July 3," Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart said Tuesday.

The 10-year veteran of the force was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic man who died days after being beaten by six police officers last year.

Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline, Photos

The status of the other officers involved in the beating remains the same, Stuart said Tuesday. Four officers are on paid administrative leave, and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli remains on unpaid leave.

Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in connection with the 2011 beating.

If convicted on the murder charge, Ramos faces 15 years to life. Both officers face up to four years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Attorney: "Game-Changer" in Thomas Case ]]> Tue, 26 Jun 2012 18:57:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ramos-cicinelli-thomas-fullerton-2shot.jpg

Arraignment was continued Tuesday for two Fullerton police officers charged in the beating death of a homeless man last year after the defendants' attorneys asked for more time to review audio recordings from the night of the encounter.

Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli were ordered in May to stand trial for the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. Thomas died five days after he encountered Ramos, Cicinelli and four other Fullerton officers at a transportation center. 

The officers were scheduled to be arraigned after the May preliminary hearing, but that was continued earlier this month after defense attorneys said they needed more time to prepare a motion to dismiss.

The arraignment was again continued Tuesday at the request of defense attorneys to July 13.

The Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline, Photos, Articles

Related: When a Call for Help Brings Tragedy

The attorneys said they recently learned of the discovery of additional minutes of digital audio recordings from the night Thomas encountered the officers. The audio is from Digital Audio Recording devices (DARs) worn by the officers.

Ramos' attorney, John Barnett, called the DAR recordings a "game-changer."

"What you see on the videotape is not the whole story," he said at the courthouse.

The newly revealed recording inludes nearly 14 minutes before he encounters Thomas. Then the two begin to verbally spar.

Barnett contends that a conversation Ramos has with another homeless man shows he's not intolerant of the homeless. Ramos calls the other man "Dave," saying "Take it easy, man. See you, buddy."

Prosecutor Jim Tanizaki said the conversation was "not a game-changer at all."

"It really just explains why Ramos was contacting Kelly Thomas," said Tanizaki, senior assistant Orange County District Attorney.

Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli faces an involuntary manslaughter charge and a charge of use of excessive force.

During the preliminary hearing, prosecutors presented an audio-video recording that depicts the July 5 encounter involving the officers and Thomas. The surveillance camera video, synched with audio from recording devices worn by the officers, shows Ramos talking with Thomas for about 15 minutes before the officer puts on latex gloves.

Ramos' exchange with Thomas can be heard on the audio recording:

Ramos: "Now you see my fists?"

Thomas: "Yeah, what about ‘em?"

Ramos: "They’re getting ready to 'f' you up."

Thomas: "Start punching dude."

The video shows Ramos and another officer striking Thomas, who was homeless and suffered from mental illness, with their batons. More officers arrive including Cicinelli, who uses his stun gun.

Ramos faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of  second-degree murder but only four years if convicted of involuntary  manslaughter. Cicinelli faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

The 38-year-old Ramos, a 10-year Fullerton police veteran, is free on $1  million bail, one of the highest ever posted in Orange County. Cicinelli, 42,  is free on $25,000 bail. Both are on unpaid administrative leave.

Both pleaded not guilty.

The four other officers involved in the beating were not charged.

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<![CDATA[Lawsuit: Eatery Falsely Reported Kelly Thomas]]> Wed, 13 Jun 2012 13:14:02 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kelly+Thomas+protest+061212.jpg

A handful of protesters gathered outside Fullerton restaurant "Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen" on Tuesday following allegations that the restaurant's management had attempted to cover up its involvement with the brutal police beating of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless man who died last July five days after the confrontation.

The protest was prompted by a $16 million wrongful termination suit filed last Friday by former Slidebar employee Michael Reeves against restaurant owner Jeremy Popoff.

Popoff had allegedly implemented a "no-homeless-people policy" around Slidebar and asked Slidebar manager Jeanette DeMarco to call the police and "do anything necessary to get Kelly Thomas away from Slidebar," according to the complaint.

"As a former rock star in the pop band 'Lit,' Jeremy Popoff was obsessed with Slidebar's image and how it reflected on his own image as the owner and face of Slidebar," the lawsuit stated. "Homeless people had no place in the image Jeremy Popoff wanted for Slidebar."

On July 5, 2011, under Popoff's orders, DeMarco called the Fullerton police dispatcher and claimed that "Kelly Thomas is in the parking lot breaking into cars," according to the suit.

Thomas was later beaten into a coma by police officers responding to the scene. He was pronounced dead five days later on July 10.

Special Section: The Kelly Thomas Case

Slidebar's managers initially reported Thomas only for loitering, the lawsuit documents stated, but Popoff was allegedly unsatisfied with police response to the incidents. According to the documents, a single police car would arrive 30 minutes later and ask Thomas to "move along" -- but Thomas would return soon after.

As a result, Popoff then allegedly told his managers to "do whatever it takes to keep Kelly Thomas away."

Reeves, a bouncer at Slidebar who was working the front door the night of the confrontation, said in the lawsuit that he saw DeMarco falsely tell police dispatchers that Thomas was breaking into cars.

Reeves said that after he heard DeMarco allegedly give police a false report, he told her what she had just done was wrong, according to the suit.

Reeves was fired for "insubordination" and "violating company policy" on Sept. 23, 2011 -- two days after the Orange County District Attorney announced he had filed criminal charges against two Fullerton police officers for Thomas' beating.

Officer Manuel Ramos faces one felony count of second-degree murder and one of involuntary manslaughter, and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli is charged with one felony count of involuntary manslaughter and one for excessive force.

Reeves claims in his lawsuit that he was fired from his job when he refused to adopt Slidebar's mantra: "Slidebar had nothing to do with Kelly Thomas' death." Reeves said managers pressured him to go along with the story.

Popoff told reporters at a Tuesday news conference in the restaurant that he was not at Slidebar that night, adding that he could not get into specifics about the situation because it was a criminal case.

Still, Popoff reflected on Thomas' death, saying that he knew Thomas and let him sleep on the restaurant's patio while it was under construction.

"It happened to a human being, a member of this community," Popoff said. "My heart was broken. It's a horrible, horrible thing."

In addition, Popoff said it was important to recognize that Reeves had been written up prior to being fired and was likely upset by his termination.

Though active before in demanding justice for his son's death, Ron Thomas said at the protest that he had "kind of a reserved opinion on the issue." He wanted to wait to see how the lawsuit would be settled, he added.

"It isn't clear if there really was an illegal 911 call made," he said in an interview with NBC4. "I understand that there's a problem between the homeless and the businesses down here, [and] I understand that they might want to get rid of them. But I wouldn't understand making a false police report that led to what happened here."

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<![CDATA[Thomas Beating Case Prompted Fullerton Recall]]> Wed, 06 Jun 2012 19:38:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/recallwinners.jpg

The beating death of a mentally ill homeless man for which two police officers are on trial was the catalyst for major change via the ballot box in Fullerton Tuesday.

Voters in the Orange County city voted overwhelmingly to recall Councilmen Richard Jones, Don Bankhead and Pat McKinley -- who had been in office just 18 months.

McKinley said Tuesday that he was initially puzzled by the recall effort. Organizers of the recall had cited a lack of transparency and leadership from the council as reasons to support their effort.

"When I first heard that somebody was going to try to recall us, I thought: Why?" McKinley said.

But on Tuesday, city voters apparently had their reasons. They elected three newcomers to replace the outgoing councilmen.

"Obviously, people want change," said Doug Chaffee, who won a seat on the council.

The violent death of Kelly Thomas allegedly at the hands of two Fullerton police officers in June 2011 prompted the controversial recall campaign. Thomas was brutally beaten and died in the hospital five days later, prompting outrage. Fullerton Police Department Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli are on trial for the Thomas' death.

Kelly Thomas Case: Timeline, Photos

"When you have a department where officers aren't being disciplined properly and you have a history of cultural problems, that responsibility falls directly on the council – and that's the reason they've been recalled," said Travis Kiger, another election winner Tuesday.

The third Fullerton man to win a seat on the council, Greg Sebourn, said there's even discussion about outsourcing police services entirely.

But Chaffee said the Thomas case is only part of the problem in Fullerton. There are also budget concerns and low morale at City Hall, he said.

Chaffee, Kiger and Sebourn were among 13 candidates who vied to replace the councilmen targeted by the recall effort.

Voters approved the recall of each current council member by more than 65 percent. The newcomers won their seats with varying degrees of voter support: Kiger, 55.6 percent; Chaffee, 42.4 percent; and Sebourn with 40.5 percent.

Election results, compiled by the Orange County Registrar of Voters, are preliminary and must be certified by the council. The three councilmen-elect are expected to take their seats next month.

More political tumult is on the way for Fullerton: a regularly scheduled council election – at which three seats will be up for grabs -- is set for Nov. 6. Kiger, who is replacing Jones, will have to face re-election at that time if he wants to stay in office. Jones' term was set to expire in November.

The other two newcomers are slated to hold office until 2014, according to a city elections website.

The Orange County Register reported that Bankhead had previously been recalled in 1996, an election that until Tuesday marked the only successful recall in the city's history.  

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Photo Credit: KNBC]]>
<![CDATA["No Intent to Deceive" in Thomas Death]]> Wed, 22 Feb 2012 08:53:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fullerton-beating-subject-3.jpg

The first public report on the investigation into the July 2011 beating death of a homeless Fullerton man called for improved processes within city law enforcement but found "no evidence of intent to deceive or falsify" on the part of Fullerton police in the aftermath of the death.   

Kelly Thomas, 37, died five days after a nightime altercation involving six police officers at a Fullerton bus stop. His death unleashed a firestorm of criticism over police handling of the incident.

"The Fullerton Police Department did not intend to deceive or falsify information," investigator Michael Gennaco told the Fullerton City Council, echoing the content of the 5 1/2-page report.

FULL COVERAGE: The Kelly Thomas Case

The report, which skirts the question of excessive force at the heart of the debate over the incident, gently chides the department for a series of missteps following Thomas' "tragic in-custody death," including releasing the dead man's mugshot from an unrelated event and failing to correct misinformation about the extent of officer injuries related to the altercation.

"The question of how much information to release after a high profile incident and when has bedeviled law enforcement for a long time," Gennaco wrote.

"There is inherent tension between the public's legitimate interest in learning some initial facts about the incident versus the potential that preliminary information gathered early in the process may not prove to be accurate."

Officer Manuel Ramos has been charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

Officer Jay Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force. The other four responding officers were placed on administrative leave.

Contflicting early accounts of the beating that led to Thomas' death fueled suspicions that the police were being less than honest; some reports falsely indicated that two officers may have suffered broken bones while trying to subdue Thomas.

The misinformation did not stem from an intent to deceive, according to Gennaco, but rather from the confusion surrounding the event and a lack of follow-through.

Two officers did undergo medical evaluation, and one required surgery for a shoulder injury, but "it is unclear whether his elbow was ever actually fractured," wrote Gennaco, an investigator with Pasadena-based OIR Group, which according to its website previously investigated an officer-involved shooting for the city of Pasadena.

In addition, the report is careful to note that investigators could not say "how the officers acquired their injuries," but only "that after the incident two officers did receive some medical attention." 

Ultimately, Gennaco wrote, there were "no 'broken bones,' " but the police department never officially corrected the error.

The incident offered a "stark reminder of the need to (1) get the information right,"  be clear about the tentative nature of information being released, and quickly and forcefully corrrect any errors, he wrote.  

The misinformation perpetuated by the police led some critics to question the veracity of their claim that they confronted Thomas in response to a call for service, Gennaco found.

He retrived a copy of the dispatch recording on which a woman calls from the parking lot near the bus station to alert police of a shirtless man carrying a backpack  "roaming the parking lot" "looking in cars" and "pulling on handles."  

Police who arrived on the scene discovered that the backpack Thomas was carrying contained papers belonging to an attorney and called dispatch to find out whether the owner had reported stolen mail.

Before they heard back, "the force incident was underway," according to Gennaco.

Police later learned that the attorney had discarded the mail and that another person had inadvertently left the backpack, which also contained a passport and employee identification, at a nearby train station.

"The evidence indicates that the initial search of the backpack provided sufficient reason for the responding officers to continue their investigation into the content found therein even if eventually it was learned that the attorney correspondence was nothing more than discarded mail," Gennaco wrote.

Gennaco questioned how information was handled following the altercation, and debunked some initial reports.

Police fomented public outrage in releasing a booking photo from a 2009 trespassing incident that had nothing to do with the case at hand, and did so despite the fact that Thomas was not a suspect but a "deceased potential victim," Gennaco found.

"The release by law enforcement of an unflattering booking photo of an individual who has died at the hands of police officers creates potential for the germination of inferences that the release was intended to portray Mr. Thomas in a negative light," Gennaco wrote. "Those inferences, in fact, did occur in this case."

Tuesday’s report left many unanswered questions, according to council members and Thomas' family.

“That’s all it is,” said Ron Thomas, the victim’s father. “It’s just a start.”

Council members were concerned that a major piece of the investigative puzzle – a city surveillance camera that captured the incident – may never be made public.

"They’ve had to make a legal leap that says, as part of this investigation, that surveillance video is part of each officer’s personnel record," said Fullerton Councilman Bruce Whitaker.

Another report will be released detailing whether the Fullerton Police Department followed the proper policies and procedures immediately after the altercation.

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<![CDATA[Independent Report on Kelly Thomas Death Due]]> Tue, 21 Feb 2012 11:08:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/7405967_N11PPKGFULLERTONBEATI_722x406_2139447888.jpg

The independent consultant hired to investigate the death of a schizophrenic homeless man who was shot by Fullerton police last summer will make his first report to the City Council.

Michael Gennaco, whose Pasadena-based Office of Independent Review Group, will report to the council at its 4:30 p.m. meeting in City Hall.

Timeline: Kelly Thomas Case

Gennaco, who is also the chief attorney for the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, and works with law enforcement across the country, will make a second report to the council in March or April.

In that report he will review the police department's overall policies and procedures.

A third report will be given to acting Police Chief Dan Hughes that focuses specifically on the death of Thomas.

In announcing Gennaco's review in August 2011, city officials vowed to "provide a comprehensive look at policies and procedures at the police department, and if there are problems found, he will make recommendations on corrections.”

Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless schizophrenic, died July 10, 2011, five days after being hospitalized after a fight with Fullerton police that was caught on video.

The death sparked calls for the police chief to resign and a petition drive to recall three Fullerton City Councilmen.

Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison if convicted.

Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.

He faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted.

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