Fellow officers help policeman make bail in murder case

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 29, 2011 5:33 PM
Fellow officers help policeman make bail in murder case

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California policeman accused of murdering a schizophrenic homeless man during a July altercation was freed from jail on Thursday after fellow officers helped him make bail, his lawyer said.

Fullerton police officer Manuel Ramos, who had been held on $1 million bail since his arrest last week on charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, was released from the Orange County Jail early on Thursday, attorney John Barnett said.

His co-defendant in the high-profile case, Corporal Jay Cicinelli, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and excessive use of force, was already free on $25,000 bail.

Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile Fullerton's acting police chief, Kevin Hamilton, said he intended to place Ramos and Cicinelli on unpaid leave, effective October 8. Four other officers involved in the case but not facing criminal charges would remain on paid leave, Hamilton said.

Orange County prosecutors said 37-year-old Kelly Thomas was beaten and repeatedly shocked with a Taser during the fatal July 5 confrontation with six police officers in Fullerton, 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

The beating was captured on videotape by a bus depot surveillance camera and two witnesses with cell phones.

It touched off a series of protests in Fullerton and prompted calls for the resignation of Fullerton Police Chief Michael Sellers and members of the city council. Sellers has since been granted medical leave.

The FBI was also investigating the case and an outside consultant was conducting a review of the Fullerton Police Department.

Attorney Barnett said that Ramos had been able to post bail in the case with the help of family and friends, including fellow police officers. The Fullerton Police Officers Association did not post the bail, he said.

Ramos, 37, faces a maximum of 15 years to life if he is found guilty at trial. Cicinelli, 39, faces up to four years behind bars if he is convicted.

An Orange County Superior Court judge has ordered both men back to court on November 4 for a pretrial hearing.