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Kelly Thomas case: Chief to fight ex-cop's effort to win back job

Law EnforcementCrime, Law and JusticePension and WelfarePoliticsJustice SystemInterior PolicyLos Angeles Police Department

Fullerton’s chief of police said he would fight an appeal from one of the officers acquitted in the death of Kelly Thomas to get his job back.

Jay Cicinelli was fired after being charged by Orange County prosecutors with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force in the 2011 death of the mentally ill homeless man.

His co-defendant Manuel Ramos, also a former Fullerton police officer, was charged with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

On Monday a Santa Ana jury found both of them not guilty of all charges.

Dan Hughes, Fullerton chief of police, said in a statement that his decision to fire Cicinelli is separate and unaffected by the acquittal.

“Former Police Officer Jay Cicinelli has alleged that he was wrongfully terminated and has demanded his job back," Hughes said. " I stand behind the employment decisions I have made."

Michael Schwartz, who was also his attorney in the criminal case, said Cicinelli’s appeal to win back his job is standard, but would not be commenting further because the process is ongoing.

This isn’t the first time Cicinelli has fought to get his old job back.

He sued the Los Angeles Police Department when the department tried to assign him a desk job after he was shot by a suspect in 1996 and lost an eye.

Police officials said his injuries were too severe to let him work patrol. The then-probationary patrol officer took the LAPD to court in an attempt to stay on as a patrol officer.

A subsequent two-year legal battle resulted in him receiving 70% of his salary, or nearly $40,000, in annual disability pension for the rest of his life from the city of Los Angeles. In 1998, he told The Times he would rather have returned to work as a patrol officer.

His pension almost came under review after the Los Angeles board overseeing fire and police pensions saw he was one of six officers involved in the struggle with Thomas. While pensioners are not forbidden to work, officials said the fact that he was working as a patrol officer raised questions about his disability status.

However, the board voted against launching such a review.

Hughes said he would fight Cicinelli’s attempt to work for the Fullerton Police Department through the administrative process.

Although a terminated employee has the opportunity to appeal his or her termination through an administrative appeal process,” Hughes said,  “I intend to vigorously defend my decisions.”

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adolfo.flores@latimes.com

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