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Jury selected to hear evidence in death of homeless man

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An undated photo shows Kelly Thomas, a local transient. Thomas, 37, was taken off of life support and died five days after a July 5, 2011, struggle with Fullerton police officers.

SANTA ANA – Eight women and four men were sworn in as jurors Tuesday for the trial of two former Fullerton police officers charged in the death of a mentally ill homeless man two years ago.

They will be asked to decide if the former policemen are criminally responsible for the death of Kelly Thomas, 37, who died five days after a confrontation July 5, 2011, in the parking lot of the Fullerton Transportation Center.

Manuel Ramos, 39, is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and faces a potential term of 15 years to life in prison if convicted. Ramos is the first policeman in Orange County history to be charged with murder for an on-duty, in-uniform incident.

Prosecutors contend Ramos ignited the fatal fight when he snapped on plastic gloves and told Thomas: “Now see these fists? They are getting ready to f— you up.”

Jay Cicinelli, 42, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. He faces a maximum term of four years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors contend he used unlawful force by using a Taser first to jolt Thomas and then as a weapon to strike the homeless man.

Ramos and Cicinelli have pleaded not guilty.

Defense attorneys argue that they were properly doing their jobs and that Thomas escalated the situation by refusing to comply with lawful commands.

The incident was captured by a surveillance camera. The 32-minute video will be the key exhibit during the trial.

Superior Court Judge William Froeberg also swore in four alternates – two women and two men – who will hear evidence and be available for deliberations in case a regular juror is replaced.

Opening statements will be delivered Dec. 2. The trial, which could last five to six weeks, will be recessed for two weeks for holidays in late December.

Source: www.ocregister.com

By LARRY WELBORN  / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situation.

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Woman killed herself at Fullerton park, witnesses tell police

FULLERTON – A 54-year-old woman shot herself in the chest in an apparent suicide at Emery Park while children were playing nearby, authorities said.

The suicide was reported at 6:30 p.m. Sunday shortly after the woman was seen walking into the park in the 1200 block of Sunny Ridge Drive, Fullerton police Lt. Mike Chlebowski said.

According to witnesses, the unidentified woman sat down between two trees about 100 feet from where children were playing and shot herself in the chest, Chlebowski said.

Officers arrived and found a handgun next to the woman. She was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.

A suicide note was not found, but it appears the woman had been depressed over a divorce situation, Chlebowski said.

“Nothing suspicious was noted during the investigation,” he said.

By DENISSE SALAZAR / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Source: www.ocregister.com

If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situtation.

 

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Man shot by Fullerton police identified

Article Tab: last-county-suspect-malveFULLERTON – Authorities identified Monday a gunman shot and killed by Fullerton police officers after a high-speed chase that ended when the vehicle crashed through a fence and plunged 20 feet into a drainage canal.

The man has been identified as Aurelio Paul Ramos-Navarette, 22, of Buena Park, Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart said. Ramos-Navarette, a documented gang member, was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.

The chase began about 11:15 p.m. Thursday when a patrol officer tried to stop a maroon Dodge Ram 1500 pickup occupied by two men in the area of Euclid Street and Wilshire Avenue for minor traffic violations, Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart said.

The driver failed to yield and continued westbound on Malvern Avenue, and as the vehicle approached Gilbert Street at about 90 mph, the driver lost control, crashing through a fence and into a drainage canal. The truck, which was reported stolen out of Buena Park, landed on its roof, Stuart said.

Ramos-Navarette fled from the truck and hid in a connecting tunnel within the drainage canal, he said.

Moments later, he emerged from the tunnel and fired at officers.

“They returned fire and he was struck,” Stuart said, adding that it was unknown how many times he was hit pending the ongoing investigation.

“A handgun was in his possession,” Stuart said. No officers were hurt in the shooting.

The other man, Diego Figueroa, 22, of Smithfield, Utah, was taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange for treatment of minor injuries he suffered when the truck plunged into the concrete drainage canal, Stuart said.

It was unclear which man was behind the wheel, he said, adding that the truck was being processed for DNA at the Orange County Crime Lab.

Figueroa, a suspect in the fatal 2010 drive-by shooting of 17-year-old Jesse Rodriguez, was later booked at the Fullerton City Jail on suspicion of felony auto theft and may be facing additional charges.

According to court records, a man with the same name and date of birth as Figueroa was arrested in 2011 for misdemeanor resisting a peace officer. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years’ probation. He also had a handful of traffic violations, including riding a bike at night without a headlight and driving without a valid driver’s license, records show.

Ramos-Navarette had numerous infractions ranging from traffic violations to being in possession of an open container, according to court records. Court records also show that a man with the same name and date of birth pleaded guilty in 2010 to unlawful taking of a vehicle and street terrorism, both felonies. He was sentenced to two years in state prison, three years probation, 270 days in jail and ordered to pay restitution.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the case, as is customary with officer-involved shootings. The Fullerton Police Department is also carrying out an investigation.

 

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Bloody Kelly Thomas photos draw gasps in court from crowd

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Scruggs later went to UCI Medical Center in Orange to take more photos of Thomas that show lots of blood and injuries over his entire body.  When the photos were shown, gasps were heard from the crowd and one person left the courtroom.

“He was a  bloody mess,” said Register reporter Lou Ponsi, who viewed the photos.

On cross examination, Scruggs testified that Officer Manuel Ramos, charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in Thomas’ death,  said: “That was the fight of my life.”

And, she said, Fullerton police Officer Joseph Wolfe said: “This guy wouldn’t stop fighting.”

The next witness was a paramedic who responded to the scene.

Fullerton fire Capt. Ron Stancyk said he arrived shortly before 9 p.m., responding to a call of a man down with police involvement.

He said he initially checked on a bruised police officer, and then noticed Kelly Thomas on the ground, leaning against an officer with his hands cuffed in front.

He said he noticed that Thomas was having trouble breathing. Paramedics loaded  the unconscious man into the amublance for a five minute ride to St. Jude’s Hospital.

While in route, Thomas’ heart stopped beating. At the hospital, they were assisting his breathing and performing CPR. They eventually restored his heart beat and he was transferred to UCI Medical Center.

The judge declared a recess shortly after 10:40.

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Previously reported:

SANTA ANA – Tony Rackauckas, Orange County’s elected district attorney, is expected to stand before a judge at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing next week and ask that two Fullerton police officers be put on trial for the beating death of a homeless man last summer.

That’s significant news for two reasons.

First, it is the first time in Orange County history that a police officer faces a preliminary hearing on a murder charge for actions that occurred while on duty and in uniform.

Second, it is Rackauckas himself who will be handling the prosecution inside the courtroom. Usually, he is represented in court by one of his deputies.

But Rackauckas has been in court with Senior Assistant District Attorney Jim Tanizake for most of the prior appearances in the prosecution of police officers Manuel Anthony Ramos, 38, and Jay Patrick Cicinelli, 42, since he made the decision in September to file felony homicide charges in the July 5 beating death of Kelly Thomas, 37.

Ramos, who is free on $1 million bail – one of the highest bails ever posted in Orange County, is charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. He was a 10-year veteran of the Fullerton Police Department.

Cicinelli, free on $25,000 bail, is charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force under color of authority for his role in helping subdue Thomas.

‘See my fists?’

Rackauckas contends that Ramos triggered the deadly exchange when he snapped on a pair of latex gloves, leaned over Thomas in a menacing manner and made two fists before telling the homeless man, “Now, see my fists? … They are getting ready to f— you up.”

And Rackauckas argues that Cicinelli, a 12-year Fullerton officer, fired his stun gun four times into Thomas, then smashed him in the face eight times with it after Thomas became nonresponsive.

Many current participants in the Orange County criminal justice arena remember Rackauckas as the Orange County judge who became the first outsider to win election as the district attorney of Orange County in 1998. But some old-timers also remember his days as trial prosecutor on the homicide team who won convictions of more than two dozen murderers in the 1970s and ’80s.

He persuaded Orange County juries to recommend death sentences for convicted killers Michael Seton Thompson and John Galen Davenport. Thompson’s death penalty was eventually reversed on appeal, but Davenport has been on death row longer than any current Orange County inmate.

Rackauckas also obtained murder convictions and life sentences for two men, Ronald Ewing and William Gullett, for kidnapping and murdering the wife of a Los Alamitos grocery store manager during a botched ransom plot where the manager was supposed to get money from the store safe. One of the defense attorneys in that case was John D. Barnett, one of Orange County’s best criminal defense lawyers, who is now defending Ramos.

Barnett and Rackauckas started their legal careers about the same time in the early 1970s – Barnett in the Public Defender’s Office and Rackauckas in the District Attorney’s Office. They have a mutual respect, and now they are set to battle it out in the courtroom in one of Orange County’s most high-profile cases in a decade.

Not overly dramatic

“Tony … has a natural ability to grasp complex factual/legal issues and explain them in plain, persuasive prose. This makes very effective in front of juries,” Barnett said recently. “He is not slick or over-dramatic.

“There is a calm ferociousness to his advocacy,” Barnett added. “He does not lose his temper, but you know he is angry. He does not belittle his opponent, but you know he thinks little of his opponent’s case.”

While Barnett respects his opponent, he told reporters after earlier court appearances that he expects charges will be dismissed after the preliminary hearing, which is scheduled to start Monday.

A preliminary hearing is the first step in the justice system, in which a magistrate or judge evaluates the evidence. In a preliminary hearing, the judge is asked to decide only two things: Was there a crime, and is there a reasonable belief that the person charged committed the crime?

It is a relatively minor burden of proof for a prosecutor compared with what he must prove at trial – guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Although almost every defendant is ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing, Barnett says the prosecution will not be able to meet the burden of proof in the Ramos case.

“There is insufficient evidence to prove the charges against my client,” Barnett says. “There is no theory of facts upon which a murder charge be sustained.

“The acts of my client were reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances, not to mention that he was not the cause of death,” Barnett added. “My client confronted a non-compliant suspect … (and) used only that force that was necessary to restrain Kelly Thomas. He did what he was required to do and nothing more.”

Ramos faces a potential sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of second-degree murder. A jury could also find him guilty of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Cicinelli faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison if convicted.

 

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Fullerton police seek help in attempted kidnapping

FULLERTON – Police are asking for the public’s help to find two men who tried to force a 19-year-old woman into a car Friday afternoon.

The incident occurred Friday at about noon, police said, along an alley of 100 W. Valencia Drive.

According to a statement released by police, the woman told officers she saw a small black car drive into the alley and park behind her.

The told police she was then grabbed from behind and dragged toward the car by one man, while another stayed in the driver’s seat.

The victim was able to free herself with the help of two people who were in the area, the statement read.

The man who grabbed the woman was described as being in his 20s.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact Detective Magliano at 714-738-6753.

 

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Kelly Thomas death: Judge refuses mother access to records

SANTA ANA – An Orange County Superior Court judge Thursday denied the mother of Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man who died after a confrontation with police, access to the district attorney’s records detailing her son’s violent death in July.

SLIDESHOW: THE DEATH OF KELLY THOMAS IN PHOTOS

Article Tab: Cathy Thomas, left, Kelly Thomas's mother, is comforted by family and friends during a vigil for her son in July. Thomas is trying obtain information from the DA's office related to her sons' death.

Judge Linda S. Marks rejected the public records request from Cathy Thomas based on the ongoing investigation, but said she could file the same request at a later time.

Thomas left the courtroom with her attorney, Brian Gurwitz, and declined to comment.

Marks ruled that releasing the evidence in the case against Fullerton police Officer Manuel Ramos, who has been charged with second-degree murder, and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli, who faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and excessive force, would endanger the integrity of the investigation.

Details to come.

 

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Police seek shooter of man found wounded in Fullerton

FULLERTON – Police are asking for the public’s help in finding the person or persons responsible for a shooting that left a 19-year-old man suffering from a gunshot wound.

Police got several 911 calls reporting possible shots fired at an apartment complex in the 3000 block of Garnet Lane near Placentia Avenue shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday, Fullerton police Captain Alex Bastreri said.

Officers did not find a victim, but determined a shooting had occurred in the patio area, Bastreri said.

The victim’s family members drove him to UCI Medical Center in Orange to be treated for a gunshot wound to the leg. His injuries were not believed to be life threatening, Bastreri said.

A description of the attacker or attackers was not available. Details of what led to the shooting were unknown.

Anyone with information was urged to call Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart at 714-773-5758

 

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