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Ex-cops ask judge to toss criminal charges in Kelly Thomas death

November 30, 2012 | 11:42 am
Ron Thomas, the father of the homeless man beaten by Fullerton police. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A hearing Friday on whether to dismiss criminal charges against three former Fullerton police officers in the beating death of a mentally ill homeless man was postponed at the request of defense attorneys.

Kelly Thomas was beaten violently at a downtown Fullerton bus depot last year. His father, Ron Thomas, appeared in court Friday to protest the delay. 

“We’ve allowed them opportunity after opportunity and continuances all along,” he said after the hearing. “We want this to move forward.”

The defense has filed a 100-page motion to dismiss charges against the former officers, saying the men acted within their authority when Thomas was beaten in July 2011, said John Barnett, a defense attorney on the case. The prosecution, in turn, filed a 120-page response.

Thomas' death resulted in charges being filed against two veteran on-duty police officers, a rarity in Orange County.  Last September, former Fullerton police Officer Manuel Ramos was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and then-Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.

In September, a grand jury indicted a third officer, Joseph Wolfe, on charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.

All three have pleaded not guilty. The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 18.

Thomas, a familiar figure on the streets in Fullerton's downtown, was beaten and smacked with the butt of a stun gun in a violent confrontation that was captured on videotape. The audio that accompanied the video, which has been shown in court, captures Thomas screaming for the officers to stop and calling out for his father to help him.

Ramos received the most severe charges because prosecutors contend that he escalated the encounter by threatening Thomas, slipping on gloves as he towered over the man and telling him that he was going to beat him.

Barnett, who is Ramos’ attorney, said that the officer acted within discretion.

“That acts that officer Ramos did were lawful and necessary under the circumstances,” he said after the hearing Friday.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: Ron Thomas, the father of the homeless man beaten by Fullerton police. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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