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Jurors were never told who Kelly Thomas really was, father says

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The father of a homeless man who died after a violent encounter with Fullerton police said the district attorney failed to “humanize” his son to the jury that acquitted two officers in the 2011 incident.

Speaking at his attorney’s law offices in Los Angeles, Ron Thomas said he didn’t want to blame Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas for the acquittals, but said the county prosecutor should have countered the defense’s portrayal of his son as a violent, drug-damaged homeless man or at least described his son’s mental illness and his home life when he was young.

"You have to at least counter what the defense is doing ... we didn't do that. We didn't bring in the positive,” Thomas said.

During a ranging interview Tuesday, Thomas said his son was a "good kid." Thomas' attorney, Garo Mardirossian, said his client's son chose to be a “drifter” rather than live at home and was not the drug abuser described by defense attorneys.

"He lived well when he was on medication, but when he wasn't on medication he would go out on the streets," Mardirossian said.

Thomas said that, if his son had been “humanized,” jurors would have realized that he was a kind soul, a man who once returned a wallet filled with cash. Mardirossian said Kelly Thomas' parents always welcomed him to come home.

"This jury saw Kelly as a homeless, disheveled man that supposedly was not following orders," Mardirossian said.

Thomas added, "It’s too late. It's too late. They made an entire case out of it."

Posted on the wall of the law offices were several enlarged photos of Kelly Thomas – one showing a freckled school boy, another of him wrestling on the floor with his family and a snapshot from a fishing trip with his grandfather. Next to those were photos of his bloodied, bruised face after the altercation with police.

"The defense attorneys ... they come right out and tell their story ... they tell it, they mean it, and they sell it,” Thomas said. “Tony didn't sell his story."

Thomas said he didn’t want to lay blame at Rackauckas’ feet and applauded the district attorney for taking on the case.

"That's a very bold step to do this. "

[For the Record, 10:40 a.m. PST Jan. 15: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed four quotes to Ron Thomas that were actually made by Garo Mardirossian, Thomas' attorney.]

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Christine.MaiDuc@latimes.com

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