Kelly Thomas' Mom Sues DA Tony Rackauckas For Secrecy in Fullerton Murder Case Against Cops

The mother of Kelly Thomas--the homeless man savagely killed by Fullerton police in July--is suing the lawman who is prosecuting two cops in the case.
This week, Cathy Thomas filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court in hopes of forcing District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to reverse an October decision that blocked her access to records in the sensational case that's won international attention.

Brian N. Gurwitz, Thomas' private attorney and a onetime high-ranking adviser to Rackauckas, wrote in the five-page lawsuit that the DA's decision violated California's Public Records Act [CPRA] and his client's rights as a crime victim.

"While conceding that [Mrs. Thomas] falls within the class of individuals normally entitled to these documents, the district attorney has denied her CPRA request for various, conclusory reasons," Gurwitz wrote in the complaint. "The [DA's] denial letter shows a startling lack of respect for his CPRA duties . . ."

But in an Oct. 14 letter, Senior Deputy District Attorney Rebecca L. Olivieri told Gurwitz that release of the records to Thomas "would clearly endanger the successful completion of the investigation and the case against the defendants." The concern? "Permitting the review of the materials in the investigative file at this point could result in the potential interference with witnesses due to influence, or even intimidation," she wrote.

Olivieri, acting on behalf of Rackauckas, also rejected Gurwitz's contention that a court protective order preventing public dissemination of the records would maintain the integrity of the prosecution's case.

"While there may be a shared interest in the prosecution of these defendants, our office has a separate and compelling interest in the criminal prosecution and bringing the perpetrators to justice," Olivieri wrote.

But Gurwitz believes that the DA's office has overreacted.

"Even if the district attorney's purported justifications for CPRA exemption had merit as to certain records, it is inconceivable that this rationale would apply to every record in his possession, and that other remedies (e.g., redaction and/or protective orders) would not protect the interests he advances," wrote Gurwitz, who was involved in several high-profile prosecution cases during his stint working for Rackauckas. "The district attorney made no good faith effort to comply with the CPRA.

He added that Olivieri's response "strains credulity," in part because the DA has already released its files to high-priced defense lawyers representing officers Manuel Anthony Ramos and Jay Patrick Cicinelli.

"We completely sympathize that she would want answers in this case and we intend to give her all the information at the proper time," said Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas' chief of staff. "Our priority now is that we get justice in this case and hold Kelly Thomas' killers accountable."

Schroeder also told the Weekly that prosecutors fear that if they release records under the CPRA to one person, even Mrs. Thomas, then they will have to give the documents to any member of the public who requests them.

"That's nonsense," replied Gurwitz. "The government code [CPRA] treats victims differently than the general public."

Cathy Thomas and Ron Thomas, the divorced parents of the victim, have hired separate attorneys to sue the Fullerton Police Department for killing their son without cause.

After a lengthy investigation, Rackauckas--who in recent years has increasing pursued alleged dirty cops and deputies--charged Ramos with second-degree murder and  Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter in the case.

Both cops claim they are innocent and await a future trial.

The Thomas lawsuit was assigned to Superior Court Judge Linda Marks.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

Exactly twenty years after the Rodney King beating there was another King Beating!

On March 9, 2011 several Police brutally ordered a K-9 to attack an unarmed, California Registered (RN) and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). The California Highway Patrol in Orange County then attempted to cover up the incident.

Malik King, a reportedly “LVN since the age of nineteen” and California Registered Nurse since twenty three years of age, is said to have initially attempted to steal a car. Later it was found he was the owner of that Mercedes. What ensued next on the part of several officers goes well beyond the bounds of simply trying to subdue their suspect.

The several police officers ordered a police K-9 to attack him while he was still fastened in his seat-belt, tasered multiple times while the K-9 attack continued for over one minute and thirty seconds, then hand cuffed, slammed to the ground, hog tied, beat and kicked in the head until unconscious. He was then taken to jail, accused of multiple felonies, and had to pay $50,000 for bail.

Despite witnesses and the clear brutality of the beating, tasering, and ordered dog attack, California Highway patrol allowed several officers to remain active and attempted a cover-up.

Violations of federal law occur when it can be shown that the force used was willfully “unreasonable” or “excessive”. By signing this petition you agree that “unreasonable” or “excessive force” was used on Malik A. King on March 9, 2011 in California Orange County.

The beating of Mr. King is sickening and disturbing. The police involved in the beating and cover up must be brought to justice. Tell Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to thoroughly investigate and prosecute the officers involved in the brutality of Malik A. King,LVN,RN.

Todd Spitzer
Todd Spitzer

It is great to see Brian Gurwitz running the same motion that I am running in Judge Johnston's courtroom in the case of People v. Scott Peterson, a high school teacher that molested my client's daughter who was then a high school student.  Jane Doe, the daughter, also has Marsy's Law Counsel, Ron Brower, since she is also asserting her right to discovery.  The DA has, like in the Thomas Case, refused to provide crime victims relevant discovery as required under the California Public Records Act.  Brian is asserting CPRA violations; I am alleging both CPRA and California Constitution protections required since Marsy's Law passed in 2008 and amended our Constitution.

Crime Victims rights and the assertion of those rights deserve a full court press.  It will be interesting to watch how the courts handled victim discovery.  Today I was in a Los Angeles Superior Courtroom representing a crime victim.  In Los Angeles, the DA is fully cooperating with me and has already provided significant victim discovery.

Orange County should be a driver of victims' rights.  Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III led the Marsy's Law fight, named after his sister who was murdered in 1983.  Other prominent crime victims included Erin Runnion and Colleen Campbell also live here.

Brian argues in his brief that the DA's office has dismissed every argument without a proper rationale: "The district attorney made no good faith effort to comply with the strains credulity to believe that his justification would apply to each and every document in his possession....The justifications advanced by [the DA] are meritless for a number of reasons....Suffice it to say, the records requested are not confidential materials that remain exclusively within the possession of law enforcement."

I could not agree more.  Hopefully a bold and decisive judge will side with open access for victims and the public and the right to participate and be heard.

I will keep you posted.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.



@Todd Spitzer It seems sir you are a strong advocate for the victim's industrial complex... The truth be told we all are victims of sorts in life but some seem better at making a living at fanning the fire of such for personal gain...Aways the victim for the victims... keep up the good self serving work.

Chris Thompson
Chris Thompson

We would welcome your endorsement Todd of the Fullerton Recallof three very weak Fullerton City Council members in Don Bankhead, Dick Jonesand Pat McKinley who support the DA's withholding of evidence as it assists themin obfuscating their very poor leadership of our police department over theyears. 

Now Trending

Anaheim Concert Tickets

From the Vault