The Orange County District Attorney has handed surprisingly harsh charges to two of the six cops who allegedly beat mentally ill homeless man Kelly Thomas, 37, to death in July.

Fullerton officer Manuel Ramos gets the worst of the DA's wrath: “second-degree murder” and “involuntary manslaughter.” And, most notably for us up north, KNX news radio is Tweeting that a former LAPD cop named Jay Cicinelli has been charged with “involuntary manslaughter” and “excessive use of force.”

Cicinelli only has one eye, after losing the other in a 1990s L.A. shooting:

He was shot six times in an on-duty attack in South Los Angeles in 1996. The former Marine was said to have been only two weeks into his first job as a cop when that happened. The confrontation took his left eye, gave him a permanent stay-home pass, and put a disability check from the city in his mailbox.

Kelly Thomas, victim of police brutality.

Kelly Thomas, victim of police brutality.

Outlook was grim this morning for Thomas' supporters, who showed up to the courthouse to rally for justice. The victim's father, Ron Thomas, told reporters that the heavy security presence was a sign cops were preparing for a light ruling (and therefore an angry mob). Looks like District Attorney Tony Rackauckas just proved him wrong.

Along with the ACLU, who had claimed the Orange County DA had a terrible track record of non-investigation and lax punishment for police crimes, and should be taken off the case.

Ramos' attorney just went on the radio this afternoon, saying today's decision is unprecedented — and dangerous. He argues this decision might make law enforcement throughout SoCal scared to do their jobs, in fear similarly harsh charges might be brought against them.

Is that the sound of accountability we hear? Updates to come.

Update: Before doling out today's charges, the District Attorney reviewed “151 witness statements, videos of the beating, medical reports and police statements,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Ron Thomas, a former cop himself, had a lot to do with gathering witnesses and making sure no stone was left unturned in the DA's investigation. Just this month, Thomas' lawyer announced that the young homeless man had died from blunt force trauma to the head — and, after viewing the priceless witness video, it'd be hard to attribute that force to anyone but the cops.

Update: Cicinelli's felony “involuntary manslaughter” charge could get him two to four years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, according to the California Penal Code. But worse, if he's found guilty, will be “the loss of the right to own or possess a firearm” and the civil lawsuit that will almost certainly follow.

For the latest in this developing triumph, we recommend following the OC Weekly's extensive Kelly Thomas coverage.


LA Weekly