Cop believes he is innocent in Kelly Thomas death, lawyer says
An attorney for one of the Fullerton police officers charged in the beating death of Kelly Thomas said that despite the judge's decision to move forward with a trial, his client "believes he is innocent."
Attorney John Barnett made the statement on behalf of Officer Manuel Ramos, 38, who is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with Thomas' death.
Of the two officers charged, Ramos faces the more serious allegations. Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, 40, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force. Ramos faces 15 years to life in prison. Cicinelli faces a four-year sentence.
Barnett insisted that despite today's decision, Ramos won't face a murder trial -- though he declined to elaborate.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas has said he will fight any challenges to have the case dismissed.
"This case is going to trial," Rackauckas said.
The prosecutor has accused Ramos of turning "a routine encounter into a brutal beating death" while Cicinelli "assisted in the killing of Kelly Thomas" by "smashing his face" with the butt of a Taser stun gun and applying his own weight on Thomas' torso.
"Kelly Thomas was a bit of a jerk to the officer but Officer Ramos was a bit cavalier," Rackauckas said.
The prosecutor said the officer was twirling his baton and then "put on a show" when he put on a pair of latex gloves, signaling he was "not going to be nice anymore." In a video of the encounter, Ramos can be heard saying to Kelly, "See my fists ... these fists are going to f--- you up."
During the preliminary hearing, Barnett said that Thomas did not consider Ramos' words a threat and that the officer was just using street language.
"Mr. Rackauckas has turned that into murder," Barnett said during his closing arguments.
Defense attorneys also tried to argue that medical care -- and not the beating -- led to Thomas' death.
Cicinelli's attorney Michael Schwartz declined comment.
-- Richard Winton and Angel Jennings at Orange County Superior Court