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Kelly Thomas case: Fullerton police officers ordered to stand trial

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father, speaks to the media following a preliminary hearing in which a judge agreed to uphold charges against two Fullerton police officers charged with the death of his son.

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Defense attorney John D. Barnett, who is representing Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos, speaks to the media following a preliminary hearing in which a judge agreed to uphold charges against two Fullerton police officers charged with the death of Kelly Thomas Wednesday.

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli listens to Tony Rackauckas, Orange County's elected district attorney, during day three of the preliminary hearing into the death of Kelly Thomas.

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos listens as Judge Walter Schwarm explains why he believes all charges should stand and why he believes Ramos and Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli should stand trial for the death of Kelly Thomas.

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Defense attorneys Michael D. Schwartz, who is representing Fullerton police officer Jay Cicinelli, argues that what the DA describes as intentional blows to Kelly Thomas' head with the butt of a taser wielded by his client are actually attempts to deflect Thomas' flailing arms and untangle lose taser cables. Both the defense and prosecution agree that the officer closest to the camera is Cicinelli, who appears to be neither compressing Thomas' torso or at an angle where he could render the described blows.

Joshua Sudock, Orange County Register, Pool photo

Ron Thomas, Kelly Thomas' father, speaks to the media following a preliminary hearing in which a judge agreed to uphold charges against two Fullerton police officers charged with the death of his son.


Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli were ordered on Wednesday to stand trial on charges related to the death of Kelly Thomas, a Fullerton homeless man who died last July after a violent encounter with police. 

After a three-day preliminary hearing, the Judge Walter Schwarm ordered the men to appear in court on May 22, saying there was "sufficient and probable cause Ramos and Cicinelli are responsible for crimes for which they are charged."

Schwarm's ruling will mean that Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos could stand trial on second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the death of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. Corporal Jay Cicinelli will be tried on charges of involuntary manslaughter and use of excessive force.

The hearing had been laced with emotional evidence, including a 33-minute-long security video of the incident mixed with sound from the officers' recorders.

Kelly Thomas’ father Ron said he was overwhelmed as he heard the judge’s decision. 

It's "the start of a new journey," Ron Thomas, the father of Kelly Thomas, who had appeared every day at the preliminary hearing. "It's the first step in a long battle, it's a war." 

Ramos' attorney almost immediately said he would seek a review of Judge Schwarm's ruling, saying, "We don't expect to go to trial."

Orange County DA Tony Rackauckas, who prosecuted the hearing himself, said "incidents like this are damaging to community because it erodes trust."

Rackauckas said expects more than one such review – and a jury trial. He also added that other officers could face charges in the incident.

“We’re not done with the investigation," he said. "Everything’s open and we’re still considering all of the evidence.” 

If a jury convicts them, Ramos could face up to 15 years in prison and Cicinelli, up to four.

The two are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges May 22 in Santa Ana Superior Court.

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