Kelly Thomas case: Fullerton cops' arraignment postponed for new audio evidence

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The arraignment for two Fullerton police officers charged in connection with the death of a homeless, mentally-ill transient has been postponed until July 13.

Officer Manuel Ramos faces charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, while Cpl. Jay Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in the beating of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, who died days after an altercation with police at the Fullerton Transportation Center last July.

The original arraignment was in May for the two officers. But, at the request of defense attorneys last month, Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison continued it. The same thing happened Tuesday in Robison’s courtroom.

This time, Ramos’ defense attorney John Barnett said he needed more time to evaluate new audio evidence that was provided two weeks ago. Cicinelli’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, agreed with Barnett’s motion. Robison granted the motion and continued the arraignment until July 13, just one year and a day after the incident between officers and Kelly Thomas. The audio is part of more than 6,000 digital audio records that the Fullerton Police Department provided at the request of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Barnett said he needed more time to evaluate the audio evidence, in which Ramos is heard in a friendly conversation with another homeless person before the altercation with Kelly Thomas. Barnett called it a “game changer” in his efforts to have the charges against his client dismissed. But Orange County Assistant DA Jim Tanizaki said it won’t be a ‘game changer’ and the defense is just doing “what it has to do.” Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, said he is glad the arraignment delay is short one.

The two officers were ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing in May. During that hearing attorneys repeatedly played video footage of the struggle between Ramos, Cicinelli, other officers and Thomas. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The two officers remain free on bail.

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