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Court won't toss charges against ex-cop in Kelly Thomas death

March 7, 2013 |  7:34 pm

An appeals court denied a last-ditch attempt by one of two former Fullerton police officers accused in the death of Kelly Thomas to prevent the case going to trial.

Former Fullerton police Officer Manuel Ramos is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and former Cpl. Jay Cicinelli was charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force in the July 2011 beating death of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with a history of schizophrenia.

A third officer, Joseph Wolfe, was indicted in September, a year after the others, on charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force.

Three other officers involved in the confrontation with Thomas were not charged.

Ramos and Cicinelli asked a Superior Court judge to dismiss the charges against them, arguing that they acted within their authority. The judge denied the motion in January.

One of the two, Ramos, appealed the decision, but the appeals court denied his challenge to the lower court's ruling Thursday.

Ramos' attorney, John Barnett, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, said:  "We have been saying that this is an important case for the people of Orange County to decide what is appropriate conduct from their law enforcement."

Thomas' father, Ron Thomas, said he would have been "floored" if the appeals court had reversed the decision but called the denial "really good news."

Cicinelli and Ramos are scheduled to go to trial June 28. Wolfe is slated to appear at a pretrial conference on March 29.

The case was the first time in modern Orange County history that a police officer was charged with murder for actions taken on duty.

Ramos received the most severe charges because prosecutors said he escalated the encounter with Thomas at Fullerton's downtown bus depot from a routine detention to a violent confrontation when he slipped on latex gloves and told Thomas his fists were "ready to f--- you up."

Barnett, who is Ramos’ attorney, said previously that the officer's actions were "lawful and necessary under the circumstances."


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Photo: Former Fullerton officer Manuel Ramos in court last year. Credit: Associated Press/pool photo.