Fearing he will be prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice for murdering Kelly Thomas, fired Fullerton cop Manual Ramos is asking a judge to grant him immunity from a scheduled civil deposition or alternatively to limit the scope of questions asked by lawyers for the dead man's father who is suing officers for the savage killing.
In January, an Orange County jury in state court acquitted Ramos as well as ex-officer Jay Cicinelli of any criminal wrongdoing and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas dropped charges against a third defendant, Joseph Wolfe.
At a post-verdict press conference, Ron Thomas–the victim's father–urged federal prosecutors to pursue justice.
Ramos is now using that statement plus an acknowledgment by the FBI that a case is “active” to at least temporarily thwart Thomas' civil lawsuit that has won a tentative December 1 trial date.
FBI agents have obtained transcripts of the trial and, on Feb. 5, received the DA's case files.
Once their investigation is completed, veteran Assistant United States Attorney Robert Keenan who works inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana will decide whether to file federal charges against the cops.
To help protect his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Ramos recently notified Rackauckas, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Keenan that he may invoke his constitutional right to remain silent while any potential criminal charges loom.
“Answers to any deposition questions relevant to the plaintiff's claims could by definition be used in a criminal prosecution or could lead to other evidence that might be used in a criminal prosecution just as much as they would be used in this civil case to prove identical misconduct,” wrote David D. Lawrence, Ramos' taxpayer-funded lawyer. “Accordingly, absent any objection from any of the prosecuting agencies, derivative use immunity should be granted to defendant Ramos with regard to his deposition.”
Ramos does not want to answer deposition questions about anything that happened or was said by officers on the night of July 5, 2011, when cops attacked the unarmed, 37-year-old homeless/schizophrenic man.
According to court records, Ron Thomas presently has scheduled an April 14 deposition for Ramos in the Los Angeles office of his lawyer, but the ex-cop wants a May 8 hearing inside Orange County Superior Court with Judge Kirk H. Nakamura to address his request for immunity.
If he doesn't win immunity, Ramos wants a judge to limit the scope of deposition questions he must answer to prevent “unwarranted annoyance, embarrassment, oppression . . . or undue burden and expense.”
A judge ruled in February that all the defendants in the civil action must declare whether they will exert a Fifth Amendment shield at least 75 days before trial.
If a defendant waives the privilege, he must submit to a deposition within five days.
Until he decides on his stance, Ramos claims any attempts to depose him would be “a waste of time.”
While a group of officers punched, kicked, twisted, stomped, beat and fired Taser blasts into the comparatively small Thomas, the man screamed, “Dad, help me . . . They're killing me” 31 times; “Sir, please . . . okay . . . okay,” 30 times; “Help me . . . Help me, God,” 26 times and “I'm sorry,” 15 times.
At the time of the killing, the cops were conducting what must have been to them a major investigation into whether Thomas took discarded junk mail from a trashcan at the Fullerton Transportation Center.
A cocky, chubby Ramos initiated contact with the victim and attacked him to the point he complained to the other officers that he felt exhausted and suffered a boo-boo on one of his elbows.
Cicinelli, incredibly hired by Fullerton PD management for street patrol duties though he has one eye, bragged to his buddies at the scene after a mangled, blood-soaked Thomas permanently lost consciousness that he'd “smashed” the victim's face “to hell” with the butt of his Taser.
The cops claimed–and a jury believed–that the use of lethal force was necessary because they feared for their lives while beating the man who possessed no weapons.
In May 2012, the City of Fullerton paid Thomas' grieving mother, Cathy, $1 million in settlement.
Her ex-husband, Ron, is seeking additional damages in his separate lawsuit against defendants including Ramos, Cicinelli, Wolfe, Kevin Craig, James Blatney, Kenton Hampton, two former police chiefs and the police department.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; earned six dozen other reporting awards; and been hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.