Fullerton cop acquitted for homeless man’s fatal beating may sue to get his job back
A Fullerton, California police officer acquitted on manslaughter charges for the fatal beating of a homeless schizophrenic man suggested he may sue his department to reclaim his job, The Orange County Register reported on Wednesday.
“I was wrongfully terminated,” Officer Jay Cicinelli told the Register. “How do you argue with a jury of 12 who all agree on the same thing? They sat through the whole trial and heard all the facts.”
Cicinelli was fired in July 2012, about a year after the encounter between Cicinelli and four other officers and 37-year-old Kelly Thomas. Cicinelli was acquitted on Monday on charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. Another officer, Manuel Ramos, was found not guilty on charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Ramos was also fired from the department after being charged.
During the trial, prosecutors played security camera footage showing Cicinelli repeatedly hitting Thomas in the face with the butt of his Taser while Ramos restrained Thomas during the July 5, 2011 incident. Ramos also threatened to attack Thomas further. Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas also argued that Thomas can be heard saying, “Dad, help me, they’re killing me” 31 times in the video, and “Sir, please” more than 20 times.
“I thought that these two police officers crossed the line to the extent that they should be prosecuted and convicted,” Rackauckas told KPCC-FM on Tuesday. “But I never had any illusions about the difficulty in trying the case and convincing a jury.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that the verdict was quickly criticized by both local activists and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which said in a statement that the verdict should spur Fullerton residents to call for the formation of an independent citizens’ review board.
Thomas’ father, Ron Thomas, told the Times he plans to bring a civil lawsuit against Cicinelli and Ramos.
“I look at this like a prize fight,” Thomas said. “It’s not over, we still have several rounds to go.”
Cicinelli’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, told the Register he will continue to represent him as he seeks to reclaim his job.
“His identity of being a human being is totally wrapped up in being a police officer,” Schwartz said of his client.
[Image via Justice For Kelly Thomas Facebook community page]