Defense Provided By Firm on CSLEA LDF Panel
"This long, intense case in which a law enforcement officer was on trial for involuntary manslaughter and assault under the color of authority underscores the need for a strong legal defense fund. There is a reason Rains Lucia Stern (RLS), PC is a CSLEA LDF panel firm and RLS Attorney Michael Schwartz just demonstrated it." - CLSEA LDF Administrator Kasey Christopher Clark
In a case that was fueled by public pressure and drew widespread media coverage, a jury in Santa Ana Superior Court found former Fullerton Police Corporal Jay Cicinelli not guilty in the death of a homeless man. Cicinelli was represented by PORAC Panel Attorney Michael Schwartz of RLS, PC. Schwartz and RLS are also on the CSLEA LDF panel.
Cicinelli was charged by the Orange County District Attorney with involuntary manslaughter and assault under the color of authority despite a determination by the D-A's own internal homicide committee that Cicinelli engaged in no criminal conduct. Cicinelli was charged alongside former Fullerton Police Officer Manuel Ramos. Ramos was also found not guilty on all counts against him.
The case stemmed from a police call on the July 5, 2011 in which two officers attempted to detain Kelly Thomas to question him about car vandalism. During a struggle to subdue Thomas, the two officers put out multiple requests for "Code 3" emergency back-up. Cicinelli was the first officer to arrive and assist those officers. As stated in a RLS newsletter, Thomas made two attempts to wrestle Cicinelli's TASER from his hand and use it against the officers. Cicinelli prevented that from happening by striking Thomas in the face with two jabs. Thomas died five days after being taken into custody.
RLS Attorney Michael Schwartz represented Cicinelli in this case that drew more than two years of widespread media reports, political and public pressure. He defended Cicinelli's actions as those of a well-trained officer who was forced to make a split-second decision under intense and dangerous circumstances. He noted that "police officers too often are forced to operate 'in the grey' with no desirable outcome. This verdict should allow some comfort in the fact that juries of lay persons are capable of understanding the unique pressures facing cops on the street every day."
Despite the not guilty verdict, there may still be another legal hurdle for Cicinelli. Federal investigators will now study the evidence and testimony to determine whether any federal laws were violated.