Kelly Thomas Killing Prompts DA Tony Rackauckas' Finest Moment

Tony-Rackauckas-Kelly-Thomas7.jpg
R. Scott Moxley
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas
At 11:04 a.m. today, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas entered a heavily guarded press conference, walked to the podium and, in front of 13 television news cameras and dozens of reporters, made history.

Rackauckas announced felony charges against Fullerton police officers Manuel Anthony Ramos and Jay Patrick Cicinelli, whom he says are responsible for the savage, July 5 beating death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old homeless, schizophrenic man.

I'm not being dramatic in saying OC's criminal-justice system will never be the same. This is a county where cops, even profoundly warped ones, historically have been given carte blanche. Nobody can remember a single cop ever being charged with unnecessarily killing anyone here in modern times.

So it wasn't surprising that prior to today's press conference, not one reporter who routinely covers Rackauckas predicted he'd file charges tougher than assault under color of authority. But the DA stunned everyone. I know firsthand that more than a few of his bitter critics are flabbergasted.

In the aftermath of Rackauckas' exhaustive probe of the killing, Ramos, who has 10 years of experience, faces second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges. Cicinelli, a 12-year veteran, faces involuntary manslaughter and excessive force charges. If convicted, these cops could land in a California prison for 15 years to life and up to four years, respectively.

Rackauckas' announcement drew loud cheers outside the building from protesters who are determined to not allow Thomas' death to disappear from public discussion.

The DA is a conservative, pro-law enforcement Republican who likes the notion of the government collecting every citizen's DNA, whether or not they're guilty of a crime. He also has a checkered past when it comes to holding dirty cops accountable. Though ex-sheriff Mike Carona is sitting in a federal prison cell at this moment, it's not because of this DA.

Yet, Rackauckas' finest moment occurred today, his 4,644th day in office.

Tony-Rackauckas-Justice.jpg
R. Scott Moxley
Rackauckas says Kelly Thomas deserves "justice"--the filing of felony charges against two Fullerton cops who beat the homeless man to death.
Six or seven years ago, I described Rackauckas' personality as "swinging wildly between wooden and stiff." He's not known for his public-speaking skills. Indeed, I've repeatedly seen him stumble on easy questions from journalists probing his more controversial decisions.

At today's press conference, the DA seemed to finally fit the job, both in terms of decision-making and style. He didn't stutter. He didn't pause for an inordinate amount of time to think up dubious answers. He didn't run from hard questions. He didn't use cheap props. He was clearly comfortable and in command. There's no doubt he believes the severity of the charges are justified.

"In Orange County, we generally trust our law enforcement and with good reason," he declared. "[But] all people in this great country of ours have a constitutional right to be free from the imposition of unlawful and excessive force under the color of law."

Rackauckas outlined how evidence at a future trial will show that Ramos and Cicinelli used their batons, fists, knees and Tasers to inflict fatal wounds to Thomas, especially his face.

(The gruesome image of the post-beating Thomas is now an international symbol of police brutality.)

"This conduct . . . is unacceptable," the DA said. "It falls short of the professional, reasonable police conduct our community has every right to expect."

Rackauckas even espoused a notion that must have made police-union bosses here cringe: "Citizens have a right to self-defense--even against the police--if [the cops] are not using reasonable force in the performance of a lawful duty."

Of course, the DA can't grant anyone new rights. But his firmly uttering a long-established legal point is meaningful. It's an unmistakeable warning shot to cops who think their badges give them the right to be immature thugs.

Rackauckas' finest moment may not have been perfect, though.

Cops shouldn't be able to get away with brutality, and they also shouldn't be allowed to alter reality in hopes of hiding from the public the crimes of their colleagues. It's not officially clear if any of the other four Fullerton police officers involved in the incident lied in their reports. If they did, they should be prosecuted for that offense. When asked to address this issue today, the DA declined.

If you're a big cop-lover, don't fret too much for Ramos. He has hired legendary lawyer John Barnett, who specializes in defending accused dirty cops. Barnett is a master of deflating for jurors the importance of prosecution video evidence like the kind in this case. He's already telling reporters that video doesn't tell the whole story.

However, the show is Rackauckas'. He could have easily concocted some lame excuse to let the officers avoid all accountability, but he didn't. The press conference move shocked journalists and even more cops who've grown accustom to pathetic oversight. Meanwhile, dozens of DA's staffers who attended their boss's presentation couldn't help but look proud.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

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59 comments
fixithair
fixithair

TRUTH.The whole truth and nothing but the truth is what we need to look closely at when considering re-electing Mr. Tony Rackauckas.There is a time for all good men to step aside and let another attorney that has shown himself capable to take over.

I have a fondness for sports but even I would consider it cruel to put an old horse that was once a grand champion on a race track.I'm not calling Mr. Rackauckas an old hag just that there are better choices to be had.

A possible reason Tony had no opponents in the past is because of the respect his colleagues have for the man (not a bad thing).In sports time demands retirement like that of Michael Jordan to whom many hated to see leave the COURT (basketball court that is).I'm sure that can also be true of the OCDA.

Think about it...even our county supervisors have to leave their seats after a couple of terms.Tony's had a good long run.Now is a good time to put the old war-horse out to pasture so we need not experience more of his lost competency and sound judgment.TRUTH

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

The OC DA deserves a best actor award for his dramatics and feigned emotion.  He has sunk to a new low using his power to advance his political ambitions at the expense of two officers who were dealing with a rapidly escalating situation with a person who was known (by his family) to be very violent.  His own mother had a restraining order filed against him.  It is well known that he once physically attacked his grandfather.  His father when contacted by local police would say that he (Kelly) was their problem now.

When Ramos says, "See these fists, They're getting ready to f--- you up," he ALSO says, "iF YOU DON'T F-ING START LISTENING.". Something that the DA likes to omit when miss quoting Ofc. Ramos.Another thing the DA and now the media so conveniently neglect to include is Thomas' response, "START PUNCHING DUDE." Does that sound like someone who is in fear for his life?Even RonThomas admits to using force with Kelly, "Ron once used his jujitsu skills to apprehend his son, wrestling Kelly into his car from a Yorba Linda park using wristlocks. "A lot of things I did with Kelly were very painful. But what are the alternatives?” -Orange Coast Magazine, March 2012

Kennys5005
Kennys5005

Tony Rackauckas will have no fine moments as long as domestic violence victims continue to die in Orange County.  What will it take for Rackauckas to prosecute before the next Seal Beach?  It is interesting that it took demonstrations for him to do his job with the Fullerton killing.  Violent men who beat women can count on a get out of jail free pass from Rackauckas.  So can policemen who kill the innocent in the absence of public demonstrations.

debmac
debmac

I agree all 6 cops should have been charged, but Ramos & Cicinelli are ultimately  the killers of Thomas Kelly.  However, getting convictions is not going to be easy.  Hopefully the DA has enough irrefutable evidence that will put them in prison where they belong.  With cops like them who needs criminals.  No difference - they thought they would get away with murder too.  If not for Kelly Thomas fathers tenacity and pressure he kept on until it would not be ignored.

murmur55
murmur55

All six Fullerton officers should have been charged with manslaughter or negligent homicide. Holding someone down in a weighted prone position or putting weight on someone's chest while they are on the ground causes inability to work the chest respiratory bellows system. The chest wall and diaphragm MUST be able to move in order for air to move in and out, allowing oxygen to be pulled in and carbon dioxide to be forced out. Without movement of the chest wall, suffocation occurs, which was the mechanism of death in Kelly Thomas' case.

These types of death are not rare. Google restraint asphyxia, positional asphyxia or death-in-custody to see more cases.

Charge the Fullerton six. Retrain security and law enforcement to perform proper restraint.

Thomas Sheridan
Thomas Sheridan

I WOULD FEEL WAY SAFER IN IRAN RIGHT NOW WITH THIS TERRORIST, ANTHONY RAMOS STILL ROAMING OUR STREETS! I THOUGHT WE LIVED IN A CIVILIZED AND REFINED SOCIETY!! BULL$HIITE! THIS BEATING AND KILLING OF KELLY THOMAS IS PROOF THAT WE ARE STILL CAVEMEN WITH CLUBS AND BIG ROCKS! 

jessewashere
jessewashere

THE DA DID IT BECAUSE HE KNEW HE COULDNT GET AWAY WITH IT................HE WAS AND IS AFRAID OF REAL PEOPLE.NOT THE DUMB ASS NEWPORT BEACH CALVARY FUCKERS TYPE THAT HE IS USE TO DEAL WITH. PUTO.

BOBA2012
BOBA2012

Ron Thomas, the Father, probably pulled some Skeletons out of the Closet! Be Realistic! I've worked with Cops and they've worked with me, off duty. And, when I was locked up for a minor matter, they seemed content to let me die of my heart attack, if Fate so ordained. Praise God for the Good Cops....but the Bad Ones are like Demons from Hell, because they DO have the power to do these kinds of things! Think About It !!!

Geronimo
Geronimo

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is........ a police officer.

Corbet
Corbet

And Police wonder why people despise them? If more cops would be good cops...and turn the bad ones in.it wouldn't turn into an "US against them" thing. Police have tough jobs ...no doubt....but so do soldiers and sailors and marines.....cops do not deserve any preferential treatment under the law.  This case will be a litmus standard for years to come. A lot rides on this one. Thank God for technology...without it this would have just got swept under the rug by a corrupt police force. The FBI has its work cut out

jonityson
jonityson

Apart from the criminal charges, the Fullerton City Council has hired an outside firm to conduct an independent internal investigation of the police department.              http://bit.ly/nxTRI6

John Gordon
John Gordon

Scott, I respect your opinion immensely and you probably know T-Rack on a professional side as well as any other reporter. But one thing about all this bugs me. Isn't he up for re-election next year? And maybe it's the cynic in me, but doesn't something like this work greatly in the favor of a guy running for office next year (if he is, in fact, running again for DA). After years of never aggressively going after cops, he takes the most emotionally charged case and comes off like Sir Lancelot. Is the that politically motivated of a guy? And is charging Ramos with both second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter basically a way to get the guy convicted on a lesser charge? And why just involuntary manslaughter for the guy who really seemed to apply the wrecking ball: Cyclops? Something still seems fishy in all this.

Daniel Heredia
Daniel Heredia

Both Officers should have been charged with the same charges. To have Ramos in handcuffs and Cicinelli not cuffed, looks & smells like O C discrimination to me. Both cops should be treated the same. Also, I don't feel the investigation & charges went far enough. What were the Supervisors doing before & after this beating occurred?

Ergo
Ergo

Yet another episode of Moxley brown-nosing the OCDA.Shooting for the press-office hack job there?

What's up with the cheesy and weird non-sequitur "without fanfare",  and how about more attention to what's missing from the indictment?

Jeff Gallagher
Jeff Gallagher

T-Rack will still be considered the most corrupted DA in California for his failure on dozens of high-profile cases. It is, however, the first time I've seen him emotional. He almost broke down and cried.

Jand4arbonne
Jand4arbonne

Justice has begun ..... I miss Kelly & I didn't even know him ...... Thanks john & ken for Ur coverage!!!

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

The best part of the whole thing was listening to the Orange County District Attorney say "eff him up." That was awesome. Not as awesome: the pointless questions being asked by media members who'd obviously turned off their hearing aids and missed the part where Rackauckas said charges were only being filed against the two officers and not the other four.

Raymundo Garcia
Raymundo Garcia

I still think all 6 cops in question should have been charged, there is this thing called depraved indifference man 2 or man1 but the DA did say 4 of the 5 cops did not no what was happening I say to that what the DA say's all the time to regular none law enforcement people ignorance is not an excuse that is what he should have done with the other 4 cops and he still can because there is no statue for filing charges for murder. aren't cops like the FBI required to have yearly psych evaluations?

Caligurl
Caligurl

the cops were just doing their job, all they want is $$

Domingo Solamente
Domingo Solamente

And one of your best pieces to date, Moxley.  Well-played, sir.

Wholetruth2012
Wholetruth2012

I don't think Todd Spitzer would agree with you. I know I don't .

Ergo
Ergo

Yep, those are the issues Moxley needs to expand on.Plus, what about the rest of the police thug gang and their supervisors.

jessewashere
jessewashere

WAIT UNTIL RAMOS CHANGE HIS TACTIC AND OPEN HIS MOTUH TO THE FBI ABOUT THE FULLERTON POLICE AND YOULL SEE

PatrickR
PatrickR

Daniel, I believe that Ramos is held without bail, was still in custody when he appeared in  court and as such would be handcuffed.  On the other hand Cicinelli, has posted bail and was not in custody, which would have accounted for him not being handcuffed.  As far as the charges, each Officer was charged with the specific criminal acts that he committed and that the D.A. felt he could prove.  This is based on physical evidence, statements of witnesses and statements by the Officers.  Ramos, obviously committed the more serious of the acts and was charged accordingly.  Now a jury will get to decide and as we have seen with a few other juries in the past like Cayce Anthony, it ain't a slam dunk.   You can take it to the bank that the internal investigation still going on will be asking exactly the question you did about where the supervisors were and what they were doing.  Any supervisor who was present at that mess and allowed it to continue will be looking for another job, probably as a greeter at Wal Mart.  .  

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Yet another episode of a loser bad-mouthing the best reporter in Southern California—Carona, is that you?

Guest
Guest

Hi. If you get a chance, could you please set up a video camera, kill yourself (ideally in some creative and painful way), and leave a note for whoever finds you to post it to youtube and email me the link? Thanks.

SXT
SXT

Dear Ergo, nothing could be a worse hack job than Caitlin Rother's pathetic Dead Reckoning worthless hack job. Besides, what's with the weird "without fanfare" line? You must be numbing your ugly senses again with the 80 proof liquor because I don't see that in the story. Drink some more girl and you'll feel better about your facial ugliness and lack of talent. 

Ergo
Ergo

Ever heard of making a point by asking  what has already been answered?

spikesbud
spikesbud

I'd be real surprized if psych testing is done annually.  Although screening may be done at hiring, I doubt it's very effective.  I feel sorry for police officers at times.  It's a very difficult job. Unfortunately, I think it also attracts some people more interested in exercising control and power than anything else. The 'thin blue line/us versus them' mentality is understandable but dangerous.  To me it's absurd that in many states the best paid, best trained and best educated l.e.o.'s are the state troopers who spend much of their early careers running radar on the interstates and filling body bags with accident victims.  Meanwhile, the underpaid, undereducated, undertrained local cops are tossed into dealing daily with rapists, child molesters, domestic violence cases, and puking crazy people.  There are better screening and training methods out there for law enforcement which are slowly being accepted.  When we adopt these new methods and start paying an appropriate salary for one of the world's most difficult jobs, we'll have better police personnel.  In the meantime, bad apples such as these guys will continue to poison the minds of tens of thousands of our youth against the police. 

Victim_of_Metro
Victim_of_Metro

I just wonder if the other officers made plead deals. 

jessewashere
jessewashere

WHAT A DUMB ASS CALVARY FUCKER YOU ARE.......MONEY IS WHAT REPUBLICANT WANT

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

Yeah, it's about the money you horse's ass...as if you could put a price tag on justice...and a man's life! And since when did a policeman's list of duties include brutally beating a homeless, mentally ill man to death? To call you a moron is being extremely polite. It really makes me angry that Kelly is dead and horrible people like you get to keep breathing. Talk about injustice...

PatrickR
PatrickR

Damn gustavo, I am shocked at your humility and acknowledgment of Scott's reporting. ability.  As scary as it may be, I find myself in agreement with you on this.  There may be some hope for you yet.  Stay thirsty my friend.   

Ergo
Ergo

Actually, I consider Moxley to be a very good reporter. I give him a good ribbing when he slips so he can become truly the best.There is hope, he is listening (at least he's removed the odd phrase "without fanfare").

909Jeff
909Jeff

Ever heard of a rhetorical question, would have shortened your dumbass sentence by 7 words.

PatrickR
PatrickR

No requirement for an annual psych exam by law enforcement.  Some agencies use them in pre-screening of new Officers and some do not, mainly because of cost.  Officers do have paychological counseling available anytime they are involved in a shooting or other tramatic event.  The "us vs them" mentality on the part of Officers has pretty much gone by the wayside with the introduction of Community Oriented Policing (COP).  The entire philosophy is focused on the Police developing a partnership with the citizens for problem solving.  Where applied properly like in the City of Irvine, the Officers have a strong relationship with their clients, as well as getting the community involved in problem solving.  Lastly, I guess you haven't looked at Police Officers lately, because most have college degrees and many continue their education throughout their career and hold advanced degrees.  The old days of the high school or GED Cop are a thing ofthe past.  This of course does not mean they they don't screw up from time to time, because they do.  When those screw ups are intentional, we try and get rid of them as quickly as the labor law allows us to do.  Good Cops hate bad Cops worse than criminals.  Back on the education front, what it does mean is that with additional schooling, the men and women are better able to deal with the wide variety of community problems faced.     

Thomas Sheridan
Thomas Sheridan

WHY, SURE THEY DID! THE FULLERTON POLIDCE DEPARTMENT HAS A SPECIAL FUND TO BAIL OUT VIOLENT POLICE OFFICERS! I THOUGHT IRAN WAS VIOLENT??!!

PatrickR
PatrickR

Fish, speaking of "ass holes" look what appears......you.  I am surprised that you have time to write on the internet because you are so busy doing volunteer work helping other homeless people like Kelly Thomas at the Resuce Mission and Salvation Army.  Injustice is people like yourself who never lift a finger to help anyone except themselves, passing judgement on others.   

spikesbud
spikesbud

Fish: I think you misinterpret Caligurl.  I think she's in your corner and is using sarcasm to make a point about real interest of the police.  I watched your DA's newsconference on CNN and was very impressed.  I too hope justice is done, but it can be so hard to find sometimes. 

jessewashere
jessewashere

I don't know who has access to my disqus username but that was NOT me. I've never even visited this page until now. I just saw your response. I don't troll websites and drop all caps misspelled rants.

Ergo
Ergo

Actually, this site is oozing with your inconsequential turds in every corner.Stick to tortilla reviews if you dislike being bitch-slapped.

As for your whine about anonymous posts:Want some cheese with that?If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen :)

QED.  

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Actually, I only pop in when there are morons involved (yourself), or one of my colleagues is getting slammed (yourself). But, hey: go have fun in your anonymousland, pendejo!

Ergo
Ergo

Not as hopeful about the arrogant-without-cause Arellano, eager to pompously stick his nose in every issue pot.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

And yet YOU always seem to have time to pass judgement...and to lecture ME about "wasting" MY time when I do the same thing. Hypocrite.

Mac
Mac

Caligurl needs to express herself more clearly. I can't tell if she is for or against the cops. Maybe somebody who knows her personally could?

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