Fullerton Police: Cops Can Lure You Out Of Home To Charge You With Public Intoxication

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Fullerton PD: We deserve immunity from accountability when we make false arrests
Can California police officers demand that a citizen leave the privacy of a home interior to stand on a front porch and then arrest the person for being intoxicated in public?

You might be surprised by the stance to that question at the City of Fullerton and its police department, two governmental entities trying to improve public relations in the wake of the still-vividly gruesome and unnecessary cop killing of Kelly Thomas in 2011.

According to Fullerton's lawyers, police shouldn't just be allowed to lure an unwilling citizen outside of a home, cops should be entitled to complete immunity for abusing their powers with a false arrest.

The issue arose in the ongoing federal civil rights case Matthew Goggans filed after a February 2011 incident where Fullerton officers Anthony Ciciarelli (a.k.a. Anthony Ciccareilli) and Frank Nguyen responded to a noise complaint just after midnight, repeatedly demanded that Goggans step outside and promptly arrested him for being intoxicated in public when he reluctantly obeyed their commands.

Fullerton's taxpayer-funded, Los Angeles lawyers--Dana Alden Fox, Barry Hassenberg and Dawn M. Flores-Oster--told U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse that it is irrelevant under California law what caused Goggans to go outside.

When Goggans stepped onto the porch, Nguyen voiced the gotcha-moment, advising that they could now arrest him for being drunk in public.

The officers handcuffed the Fullerton College student, took him to jail, photographed and fingerprinted him, left him in lockup for several hours and issued him a citation for committing crimes.

Prosecutors inside the Orange County District Attorney's office weren't impressed by the case and refused to file charges.

Goggans eventually hired Garo Mardirossian and Thomas E. Beck and in early 2013 the duo sued Fullerton for abusing police powers.

The plaintiff lawyers argued to Selna that the cops "knew or should have known that California law does not allow a police officer to command a person who is lawfully inside his private home, to step outside onto his front porch, and arrest him for intoxication in a public place."

In a ruling this month, Selna declared he was "unpersuaded" by the arguments of Fullerton officials.

"In this case, Ciciarelli and Nguyen ordered Goggans to come outside, even after he had indicated he did not want to," wrote the judge. "Under California law, an intoxicated person who is found somewhere other than a 'public place' but who acquiesces in the police's request to accompany an officer to a 'public place' cannot be found in violation of [the law] based solely on the person's presence in that 'public place.'"

Selna also stated "critical weaknesses" in the police assertion that they had probable cause to arrest Goggans for public intoxication because "there is virtually nothing" in complaint "to suggest that Goggans was drunk."

He added that "even if [the officers] had probable cause to believe Goggans was in a public place, the fact that Goggans was playing loud music at midnight, did not wish to leave his home, and failed to deny being drunk does not add up to a fair probability that Goggans was intoxicated."

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Christopher Victorio
Fullerton residents protest police brutality after the killing of Kelly Thomas
After asserting that at this stage of the litigation he doesn't see any probable cause for the arrest, Selna refused to dismiss the lawsuit, remove Nguyen as a defendant or hold him immune for potential punitive damages for carrying out his police duties in "bad faith."

In July 2011, a group of heavily-armed Fullerton cops beat to death an unarmed Thomas, who was a frail homeless man. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas charged several involved officers for the brutal attack. That trial is set to get underway next month in Orange County Superior Court.

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Email: rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @RScottMoxley.

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31 comments
didelrich
didelrich

ARE YOU JOKING??? Officer Cicciarelli is not one bit interested or concerned with protecting and serving.  He is a weak man who hides behind his badge and his gun.  Officer Nguyen is just as bad.  Any Fullerton citizen who ever has encountered either of these two weak individuals will likely agree.  Nothing is more frightening then a bully carrying a gun.  We all know that bullies are actually scared, weak and full of resentments.  How dare the attack a college kid like that.  And it IS an attack.  How dare they abuse their powers. 

bwalrus
bwalrus

I feel I have to step in here.  I worked with Officer Cicciarelli for two years at one of our local schools while he was the SRO.  It is not fair to paint every Fullerton cop with same brush as those involved in the Kelly Thomas case.  Tony is about the best police officer I have ever seen; fair, compassionate, completely dedicated to his job.  Tony is not out to get Fullerton citizens, his job is to protect and serve, and I saw him do that with excellence daily for two years.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

By the way, when the Fullerton police chief rattled off the list of police agencies OIR had worked with he conveniently forgot to mention the Anaheim police department. Surprising really since community relations are so great in Anaheim that a whole bunch of residents spontaneously burst out into block party mode last year in front of the city hall. Not everyone was asleep at the meeting Chief.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

Hey maybe the "Office of independent review" will review this. I saw the current Fullerton police Chief fawn all over them one night.

Prior to seeing that late night show I was treated in the afternoon to an White male Anaheim cop objecting to which finger I was using to scratch my face. I bet you didn't known there are rules (in Anaheim at least) about the use of certain fingers to scratch your face while crossing the street? Then I got held for questioning - asked for my ID - told me to keep my dog away from him - asked me why I was walking around my former neighborhood - tells me "we didn't do anything to you" (the guy looked like he might have been in kindergarten when Stan Knee and company fucked me) etc etc etc. The fact that I had tweeted just prior that I would be appearing at the Fullerton city council meeting that night probably had nothing to do with this extremely rare face to face encounter with an OC cop.

Ricky Stauffer
Ricky Stauffer

I'm wondering what the difference is between someone drinking on their porch, or 50 plus drunks in the patio of a Fullerton bar?

Bill Martin
Bill Martin

and if that happens I'm going to shoot to kill

Denice Hess
Denice Hess

OH HELL NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DaniGirl949
DaniGirl949

The Fullerton PD, better watch it... That city is soon to be run by the Sheriff’s department. The Fullerton DP has done absolutely nothing to boost the morale of that City, sense the Kelly Thomas beatings. There seems to be one bad news article after another within that city. I understand that not all Fullerton PD are bad, yet I really believe the city has more bad apples then good in that town. If I was one of the good apples, I would distance myself so fast from that corrupt city.

Thuan Vo
Thuan Vo

that Nguyen dude! should go back to Vietnam and serve the communist

John Goelz
John Goelz

End police immunity from the law.

Anthony 'Ace' Leon
Anthony 'Ace' Leon

U know this is bullshit back in 1985 or 86 i was sitting in my front yard on my lawn and i was drinking can beer and no i wasn't drunk i just start my first beer and i just open it i say half full then this jackass cop was cruise slow in my track then he look in me and pull side my house on curb then ask me if i live here and i say yes then ask me if i was over 21 and i say yes told him i was 25 or 26 then next thing ask go to house now in rude voice i say why cause u r drinking in public i say no i'm not this my lawn and u r on my lawn so u no right be on my lawn officer so u r on my property so u have to leave officer then warn me again i say don't warn me officer i'm telling u again get off my property or i will call your command then start get closer to me and i say hey don't even think about it come here closer then we exchange words then my father came out outside heard shout between me and jackass then my dad ask him why u r here officer he told my dad i was drinking beer in public and dad told him he has a right to drink here and officer told my dad no he cant do that in Fullerton and i say oh bullshit,my dad told me shut up son and next thing i got a fucking ticket for drinking in public and i refused sign it but my dad did that and officer left and i ask my dad can i see the ticket please and my dad gave me ticket i look at for minute then next thing u won't believe what i did next i ate it the TICKET YUM IT WAS GOOD,OH ON NEXT COURT UPDATE IN 2 WEEKS IN FULLERTON COURT WITH MY DAD THE JUDGE DISMISS THE TICKET AND IF I REMEMBER THE FINE WAS THINK WAS ABOUT 200 DOLLARS AND I TOLD JUDGE THANK U BUT HE ASK WHERE COPY THE TICKET OFFICER GAVE YOU AND I SAY I ATE IT HONOR,HE LAUGH.THEN THAT IT BUT U KNOW IT STILL NOT RIGHT ANY LAW COMES TO YOUR PROPERTY AND ARREST OR HARASSED YOU IT MATTERS OUR RIGHTS TOO CITY FULLERTON NEED A GET GRIP OR STOP WASTING OUR TAX DOLLARS TOO.

Catherine Turley
Catherine Turley

i'm assuming the law on public intoxication has to do with being a nuisance to others. this guy was a nuisance to his neighbors. if he refused to comply with orders to keep the noise down, then he should have been cited or arrested for that; not being drunk in public.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

I believe the Anaheim PD tried some similar shenaningans a few years ago...someone would step out of a bar for a smoke or even just some fresh air and they would get popped with a "public intoxication" charge because they were standing on the public sidewalk!

Catherine Turley
Catherine Turley

then people should stop calling them. it's the most difficult job in the world; knowing that someone might sneak up on you at any minute and kill you because of the uniform you're wearing. i would agree that some are not suited for the job because it requires restraint and perfect judgement. however, i am sick of people calling over domestic violence situations (wasting time and money) and then freaking out when the police use force.

Digger Thrash
Digger Thrash

they use to try to do that to us 20 years ago. we never fell for it.\

Bobby Godinez
Bobby Godinez

Thats Fullerton ---- it is chilling to be at the site where Kelly Thomas was killed.

John Hald
John Hald

Cool two can play at that game they think normal folks cant lure cops into worse scenarios? Just watch us

Lc Fister
Lc Fister

They do it everywhere! Everyday!

Jonathan Taylor
Jonathan Taylor

How many false arrests do you have to make as an officer before you are held accountable? Uh, Chief Danny?

FullertonAvenger
FullertonAvenger

Nguyen.  Again.  This psycho, braindead, moron has been abusing citizens' rights in Fullerton since he got his overpaid job.  When is he going to be held accountable for his actions?  Nguyen, you're a disgrace to law enforcement everywhere.

Marc Knack
Marc Knack

At least the judge saw through their b.s. I would be pissed if the judge sided with the police.

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

3 of those killers are still police officers and I think one was promoted to Detective. The POBRA has become a weapon used by Police to protect themselves from litigation and deny citizens access to redress under the law.

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@bwalrus Yes, "bwalrus," good people sometimes do bad things. That fact is even true with nasty, serial killer/criminals. But police officers know damn well they can't lure a citizen out of his home and then obnoxiously arrest them for public intoxication. Who does that? Well, perhaps the answer is an officer who forgot he is a public servant sworn to be honest and ethical.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

@wendelelectric  

Yeah, he could NOT have opened the door which would have given the cops a reason to break it down...and they would have found an excuse...even if they had to fabricate one later...

bwalrus
bwalrus

@rscottmoxley @bwalrus 

Hey Scott:  Love what you do, and have been following you for a number of years.  However, in this instance, isn't it possible there is more than one side to the story?  Again, knowing him personally, I can assure you that Officer Cicciarelli is at all time honest and ethical.  

But let's put speculation aside, my problem with the article is that last paragraph.  Scott, is there a necessary connection between the Thomas case and this incident, other than the fact that it happened in Fullerton?  I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of that event, it's impact on my city, or what it might say about the department as a whole.  I am asking though, at what point do we draw the line in making this comparison?  Isn't it possible that there are a number officers on the force that are in no way like Ramos and Wolfe and their ilk?

trb92677
trb92677

No way, they don't break the door down unless its stamped go and even then they need that gay ram to do it,

Don't answer the door and if you do leave the gun go out side and bend over.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

@trb92677 

Hey, I'm not a sheep...but I wouldn't trust Fullerton PD to "do it by the book" and get an "ok" before breaking down my door.

PS "gay ram"? Really lame.

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