[UPDATED with First-Hand Insight From Villagra:] OC District Attorney "Incapable" of Impartial Probe into Kelly Thomas's Police-Beating Death: ACLU

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Villagara
UPDATE, AUG. 5, 4:26 P.M.: Update written by Marisa Gerber.

Hector Villagra is no stranger to Orange County. Before he took on his current role as executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, he worked in the ACLU's Orange County office.

It was his first-hand experience with the Orange County district attorney's office, Villagra says, that makes him doubtful that the office can forge an impartial investigation into Kelly Thomas' killing. 

He worked with several cases of police misconduct investigated by the DA's office, but he says it's the outcome of the Julian Alexander case that especially sticks out in his mind.

"We looked at what the DA's office was doing in cases of alleged police misconduct," Villagra says, "and we had seen reports in the OC Weekly that over a 10-year period, the office had only once pursued charges in an officer-involved shooting case."
 
"We think there's ample reason to be concerned, about whether this DA has the impartiality to conduct an investigation like this." That impartiality is rooted in proximity, Villagra says.

"You have a situation, where a prosecutor, in building a case, relies on working with police officers. And to litigate a case, they rely on police officers, too. They develop relationships over time, that are only to be expected," Villagra says. "We have to ask the question, 'Can they be expected to turn around and then prosecute those officers, when they break the law?'" 

Villagra says he thinks the solution is to add a few degrees of separation. "If it's local police, you could bump it to the state attorney general, who doesn't routinely work with local police officers."
 
He says he's happy to see the FBI investigating, but now he wants the DA's office completely off the investigation. "Since we see a district attorney's office that routinely clears officers alleged of misconduct, that gives that much more teeth to this concern."  

UPDATE, AUG. 5, 11:26 A.M.: In the statement from Hector Villagra, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, on the next page, he mentions a 2004 investigation by LA Weekly into officer-involved shootings justified by the district attorney, followed by a reference to the Huntington Beach cops being cleared in Ashley McDonald's death.

The first sentence may be in reference to a probe of Los Angeles County's DA, although I could not find a link to such a piece in LA Weekly's archives. If both sentences refer to the Orange County DA, I found no such story on LA Weekly's site.

However, I did find in OC Weekly's archives "Shoot First, Ask No Questions Later," my colleague Nick Schou's 2006 investigation into the OCDA's handling of the McDonald case and other officer-involved incidents.

The ACLU has been contacted for clarification.

The Weekly's previous coverage of Kelly Thomas' death:


ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 5, 8:43 A.M.: Executive director Hector Villagra of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California has issued a statement saying the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) is "incapable of impartial investigation" into the police-beating death of Fullerton's Kelly Thomas.

In the full statement that follows, the ACLU leader also says the case "spotlights the complete lack in Orange County of government services for the mentally ill and chronically homeless populations."

ACLU's Villagra: O.C. District Attorney Incapable of Impartial Investigation into Police Beating Death of Homeless Man

(Los Angeles) - In response to the July 5th beating death by Fullerton Police of 37-year-old Kelly Thomas, a homeless man with schizophrenia, ACLU of Southern California Executive Director Hector Villagra released the following statement:

"While much of what led to Kelly Thomas' death is still hazy, several things are already crystal clear now.

"We are pleased that the FBI will investigate Thomas' death. Although Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas reportedly has some two dozen investigators working on the case, interviewing up to 100 witnesses, the district attorney has an abysmal track record when it comes to investigating and prosecuting officer-involved deaths.

"In 2004, an investigation by the
L.A. Weekly found that of 50 officer-involved shootings in the previous five years, not a single one was pursued for prosecution by the D.A.'s office. In 2007, the D.A. cleared two Huntington Beach officers in the shooting death of Ashley McDonald, who was shot 15 times after brandishing a knife.

"The bottom line is that the district attorney's office is simply not the body to conduct an independent investigation. These are prosecutors accustomed to working with police officers and building their cases with the assistance of police officers. A thorough, impartial inquiry requires investigators who are not in daily contact with police; indeed, whose daily work doesn't require police cooperation.

"We call on Fullerton Police and the district attorney's office to release a full accounting of what took place, including the release of additional videos from the bus depot showing the beating. The district attorney's office has said those videos may present a different picture of the incident; we won't know until they're shared with the public.

"The incident also spotlights the complete lack in Orange County of government services for the mentally ill and chronically homeless populations. Without such services, tragic incidents like this will continue to occur, as police officers, improperly trained in identifying people with mental illness or de-escalating encounters with them, are called upon to respond to homeless individuals with untreated illnesses."


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16 comments
Van
Van

Hey Patrick, you are entitled to your absolute crap opinion, but remember one thing that Mr. Kelly Thomas is murdered by these 6 pigs and he is not here to defend himself. The only defense he has is his father and those video tapes. So go figure it out. The Fullerton police and the district attorney can play their game the way they want it. Justice for Mr. Kelly Thomas.

PatrickR
PatrickR

Yep, now there is a real credible group of human beings, the ACLU.  They never met a Cop they didn't want to bash, or a dirt bag they did not want to defend.  As usual, they are jumping on the bandwagon of premature judgement before the investigation is complete and the facts are in.   They see a chance to get some media time from this tragedy and will make the most of it.  The same applies to the two City Council Members from Fullerton who apparently are forgetting their job is to remain objective until they get the facts and not do a knee jerk reaction to public hysteria, many not even residents of Fullerton.  There will be adequate time for them to get on their soap box and demand this and that, if the investigation shows the Officers violated the law.  Fullerton has a very good Police Department overall and the men and women there deserve better support from their community, than they are getting.       

Lynwoodsibley
Lynwoodsibley

The Mayor of Fullerton felt it was a OK killing and my feeling he was on the take from thePolice Union who contributes to Politico's and some one needs to have a breakdown of"GIFTS" from the Police and Fire Unions to the city council and the Mayor and the sweetheartrelationships that occured . The people of Fullerton have received a third world Mayor andPolice Dept. as a result of voting in the wrong baby Kissers and now need to clean houseany one can beautify a city given enough tax money and its not their money but yoursfolks and I hope Kelly's father runs and wins Mayor of Fullerton and those 3 on the citycouncil who want to retain the police chief had better look at those videos again and alsothe testermony of the eyewitness accounts and their was a lot of them.

Kerrylpt
Kerrylpt

I am absolutely appalled and disgusted at this tragedy and ferociousness. There is no justifiable reason for a human being, much less six, to brutally attack and steal the life of someone who had done nothing to personally threaten their being. What's even more disturbing is the lack of respect and action shown by Mayor F. Richard Jones, Mayor Pro Tem Don Bankhead and Council Member Pat Mckinley. No one deserves their precious life to be beaten out of them! Had that been done to their son or daughter, I am certain we would be hearing from them and seeing some action taken!!These City Representatives not only have an obligation to the community they serve, but as human being to take immediate action and remove these "officers" as well as the chief of police from their duties they have neglected.....to "protect" and serve. It is the least one can do in the face of such senselessness and it is also the right thing to do.

Christine Crawford Kinder
Christine Crawford Kinder

Please pass this link around to all your friends and family in the Los Angeles area!  www.youtube.com/findshawnt  Shawn Tischler has been missing since May.  He was last seen in Long Beach, CA.  He is 30 years old, 5'4", 115 lbs.  He is also schizophrenic.  There is a website dedicated to Shawn as well, www.findshawnt.com.  Please, please, pass this around.  Thank you!

Edgardamas
Edgardamas

The police officers/cowards in this case should not by all means be on paid leave, but rather leave without pay and should futher be arrested and charge with 2 second degree murder. No one is above the law, its cleared that they killed a man with a great mental disability, sense when did the law gave police officers a free ticket to kill any one for no reason and not be prosecuted? We seen this before in other cases and the law has not applied to them.

People its time for a change ! Its time to change the law ,  time for police officers to be prosecuted just like the rest of society who commits a murder offense.

The death of Kelly Thomas was nothing more then a homicide by six cowards police officers with very ,very small penis.  

Mwandrack
Mwandrack

interesting that you should use the term " knee jerk" as that was the body part savagely dropped on Kelly Thomas' nose and neck by Cicinelli more than once.  just sayin...

PatrickR
PatrickR

Lynwood, while it was hard to understand the point you were trying to make because of your third grade writing level, I will comment on one point.  I believe that Ron Thomas lives in the City of Cyprus and not in Fullerton.  To run for Mayor, he would have to relocate to Fullerton. 

PatrickR
PatrickR

Kerry, contrary to your biased opinion, the Police Chief and the three City Council Members are doing exactly what the City Attorney is advising them to do, keeping thier mouth shut and waiting for the investigation to be completed.  Not sure whay that is such a difficult concept for people to understand, because that is the way it happens in every other case that comes along.  The suspect(s) regardless of how henious the crime may be is presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise.  This means a thorough investigation, examination of evidence and witness interviews.  If probable cause exists to believe a crime occurred, the Grand Jury issues an indictment and the suspect(s) is arrested.  They are still presumed to be innocent until convicted by a jury of citizens.  Right, wrong or indifferent, that is how the system works.  Yet, all you Cop haters and people who do knee jerk reactions want to apply a different standard to the Police Officers involved.  Sorry bub, it doesn't work that way, so quit whining about it. 

PatrickR
PatrickR

Edgar, how do you know what size the Officer's penis are?  Have you been hanging out at the local places the Officers frequent and peeking at them when they take a piss.  I thought the Judge warned you about that in the past and put you on probation for it?  

Edgardamas
Edgardamas

Mr. Patrick , when it comes to evidence, videos dont lie these cowards police officers brutally kicked over and over again this poor man Kelly to death, there are many individuals who witness the murder , yeah lets call it that a homicide by your police officers friends , it seems to me your a cop lover , and that you also suffer from having a small penis your self. Listen little one, any men who participate as a group having  this great authority to kill an indefensive person , clearly has no balls and its not men enough . To answer your question meet many individuals in this world without cojones and now one more your self.    

Chris Bray
Chris Bray

It's absolutely wrong to "want to hang these guys based on inuendo and supposition, before the facts are in." The Fullerton standard is to beat them over the head with flashlights and tasers based on innuendo and supposition, before all the facts are in.

PatrickR
PatrickR

Gustavo, you want to get into the pissing contest too, that's ok by me.  Don't confuse me with an apologist, because I make no excuses for anyone. I wasn't there, just as none of you were and have no idea what happened.  What pisses me off is that you ass holes with chips on your shoulder and an ax to grind with the Cops, want to hang these guys based on inuendo and supposition, before the facts are in.  I am defending the process, which you want to throw out the door.  When the investigation is done and the report is presented, then let the chips fall where they may with the Fullerton 6.  If the investigation clears the Officers, then they walk.  If the investigation reveals they committed the acts you accuse them of, then they deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.  That's the way the System is supposed to work.  I worked under this System most of my adult life and continue to support it today.      

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

If this is the best commentary that the Fullerton Six can inspire from their apologists, then they better start making deals to not get roughed up in the slammer...

PatrickR
PatrickR

Edgar, your wife/girl friend thinks the size of my penis is more than  fine and she wishes you had any balls at all.  Don't presume to judge the men who wear a badge until having walked in their shoes.  It is clear neither your feet or balls will ever be big enough for that.  By the way, good luck on your career at MacDonalds and hope ICE doesn't show up at your place.   

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