Trial date changed for ex-Fullerton cops charged in beating of homeless man

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The trial date has been changed again for two ex-Fullerton police officers charged in connection with the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man.

Former Fullerton Police Department Officer Manuel Anthony Ramos, 39, is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Former officer Jay Cicinelli, 41, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in connection with the beating death of Kelly Thomas.

Orange County District Attorney spokeswoman Farrah Emami said jury selection is scheduled for November 18. She said the trial is scheduled for December 2 in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

Jury selection was to have started Nov. 5 with the trial beginning Nov. 18. Emami cited "scheduling issues" as the reason for the change. 

A  third ex-Fullerton police officer, Joe Wolfe, also charged in the case, will be tried separately.

Wolfe faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in the Thomas beating.

In a videotape of the July 5, 2011, incident at the Fullerton Transportation Station, Wolfe is seen pinning Kelly Thomas on the ground. Thomas is heard during the altercation telling officers he could not breathe.  

Police went to the location in response to a 911 call that someone was trying to break into cars in the area. 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. Three other Fullerton police officers joined Ramos, Cicinelli, and Wolfe, and a violent struggle left Thomas bloodied and unconscious. 

Thomas was taken to a hospital, put on life support and died five days later. 

An autopsy showed that Thomas suffered broken bones in his face and compression injuries to his thorax, which made it hard for him to breathe. The Orange County Coroner determined he choked to death on his own blood, and the cause of death was listed as asphyxia. 

Thomas, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was a fixture on the streets of Fullerton and had about 90 documented run-ins with police dating to 1990.

During a pretrial hearing October 18, Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg ruled that there would be no gavel-to-gavel television coverage of the trial. 

Froeberg said he didn't want to "further inflame high emotions" by allowing complete TV coverage in a case with a "considerable amount of animosity." 

The judge said he didn't want to add to the "explosiveness" of the high profile case. 

But he will let two pool cameras inside his courtroom, one TV and one still camera, during opening statements and closing arguments, the verdict and sentencing phases of the trial, which is expected to last into 2014.

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