SANTA ANA – A pretrial hearing for the two Fullerton officers charged in connection with the death of a homeless man in July was postponed Friday until Dec. 16 after defense attorneys received discovery from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office about hundreds of police interviews of witnesses and other evidence.
Superior Court Judge Erick Larsh delayed the hearing at the request of the defense attorneys for Manuel Ramos, 37, and Jay Cicinelli, 39, who are charged with felonies for their roles in the violent encounter on July 5 with Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old transient with a history of schizophrenia.
Thomas died from suffocation after he fought with six Fullerton officers when he was confronted outside the Fullerton Transportation Center. The 30-minute skirmish was witnessed by several people and captured on surveillance video.
Ramos, a 10-year veteran on the Fullerton Police Department, is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. He is the first police officer in Orange County history to be charged with murder for an incident that occurred while on duty and in police uniform.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas contends that Ramos triggered the deadly exchange when he snapped on a pair of latex gloves, leaned over Thomas in menacing manner and made two fists before telling the homeless man, “Now, see my fists? … They are getting ready to f— you up.”
Ramos, free after his family and friends posted $1 million bail in September, faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of second-degree murder. A jury could also find him guilty of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.
Cicinelli, 39, a 12-year veteran of the Fullerton police force, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force under color of authority for his role in helping subdue Thomas. Rackauckas contends that Cicinelli fired his stun gun four times into Thomas, and then smashed him in the face eight times with it after Thomas became nonresponsive.
Cicinelli, free on $25,000 bail, faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison if convicted.
Ron Thomas – Kelly Thomas’ father, outspoken in his insistence that the officers involved in his son’s death be prosecuted for murder – faced television cameras and said seeing the two defendants free on bail was difficult.
“It was real emotional for me this morning,” he said. “When you think about justice for Kelly … I could kill that man. … I want to kill them both.” Later, he added, “I’m not going to do it, but it is my right as Kelly’s father to feel that way. … Look at what they did to my son.”
A judge at the next hearing on Dec. 16 could select a date for a preliminary hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial.
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