Crime & Justice

Arraignment rescheduled for Fullerton police officers charged in death of Kelly Thomas

Ron Thomas with supporters after the arraignment in the death of his son Kelly Thomas was delayed, Tuesday, May 22, 2012.
Ron Thomas with supporters after the arraignment in the death of his son Kelly Thomas was delayed, Tuesday, May 22, 2012.
Ed Joyce/KPCC

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A judge agreed today to reschedule the arraignment of two Fullerton police officers facing trial for the death of schizophrenic transient Kelly Thomas.

Thomas, a homeless man, died days after an altercation with police last July at the Fullerton Transportation Center.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison Tuesday granted the request to reschedule the arraignment of Officer Manuel Ramos and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli until June 26.

Officer Ramos’ defense attorney John Barnett said he needs more time to review the preliminary hearing transcripts so he can prepare a motion to have the charges against his client dismissed. He also made the request for Cicinelli’s lawyers, who were not at the arraignment.

Ramos faces charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Cicinelli is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force under color of authority in the death of 37-year-old Thomas last July 5.

Another Orange County Superior Court judge ruled May 9 that there was enough evidence for the defendants to stand trial.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he expected the motion.

“The defense has a right to a trial within 60 days of the arraignment, so this pushes that 60 days out,” said Rackauckas after the arraignment was rescheduled.

Kelly Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, expects more delays.

“It’s not that big of a deal at this point, they’re going to try and delay all the time," said Thomas outside the courtroom. "I'd much rather have them give this delay, and that’s all this is, then come back and say they didn't have sufficient time to prepare, and that could really damage the case too.”

During the arraignment, Thomas told the judge in open court he did not want the arraignment delayed.

"Kelly is deceased, so I am here as a voice to my son," Thomas told the judge. "I ask you sir, not to grant a delay at this time, let’s move forward.”

Talking with reporters, Thomas said he still wants Fullerton police officer Joe Wolfe, seen in the video of the altercation, using a baton on his son.

"I personally, as well as millions of people, want to see Wolfe charged, that's absolute," said Thomas. "The other three [officers involved in the altercation,] I'm still looking at them."

A different Superior Court judge ordered the two officers to stand trial after a preliminary hearing earlier this month.

During the preliminary hearing, attorneys repeatedly played video footage of the struggle between Officer Ramos, Cpl. Cicinelli, the other officers and Kelly Thomas.

"I've received correspondence from all over the world, people are outraged, horrified," said Thomas of the video. "And it's sickening, it tears me apart again to hear him [Kelly Thomas] calling for me, begging for me to help him, until he dies."

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

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The two officers remain free on bail; they’re on unpaid leave from their department.