Updated, with DA office response at the end of post.
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 11, 3:30 P.M. John Huelsman, stepfather of one-eyed Fullerton cop Jay Cicinelli, sat down with Fox affiliate KTTV-TV Channel 11 yesterday to defend the accused officer in the court of public opinion. No surprise here: he believes his stepson is a sacrificial lamb, charged with involuntary manslaughter and using excessive force in the death of Kelly Thomas by a politically motivated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
In a September press conference Rackauckas accused Cicinelli of striking the homeless and unarmed Thomas in the face eight times with his Taser.
Huelsman told Fox reporter Araksya Karapetyan that far from using excessive force, Cicinelli came upon the scene 18-minutes into the confrontation, which saw several officers futilely attempting to subdue a struggling Thomas on the ground.
"He sees what any reasonable officer would see," said Huelsman. "They're not controlling him..that's why they're screaming on the radio "we can't control him.'"
Deconstructing the footage caught by a nearby city camera, Huelsman argued that what appears to be Cicinelli striking Thomas after firing his Taser was in fact something much more benign.
"When you see his movements up and down that's not strikes. You see his hand rotating around, there's a lot of cord, there's about 15-feet of cord wrapped around; and Kelly's arm is pulling on it," Huelsman said. "Jay is trying to keep that cord away from him."
Huelsman added that Thomas twice attempted to grab the weapon from Cicinelli.
Far from the eight times alleged by Rackauckas, Huelsman says Cicinelli probably only hit Thomas in the "facial area" twice.
An autopsy conducted by the Orange County Coroner concluded Thomas died of, among other things, injuries to his face. Medical records also indicated the schizophrenic man suffered several broken bones in his "facial area." These injuries, combined with the excessive blood draining down his throat and pressure put on his chest by officers led to Kelly's death.
At his May preliminary hearing, Cicinelli's attorney Michael Schwartz used the same explanation regarding the Taser cord to no avail. Judge Walter Schwarm argued that there was enough evidence to reasonably find both "Mr. Ramos and Mr. Cicinelli are responsible for those felonies as charged."
UPDATE, JULY 13, 1:18 P.M.: Orange County District Attorney Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder responded to Huelsman's claims and spoke to the Weekly directly. She said that though his point of view as a family member is understandable, it doesn't hold much water.
"One, he doesn't have all the evidence we have," said Schroeder. "This case was put before the judge, a very experienced judge with a great reputation. And he decided there was sufficient evidence for this case to go forward."
As for whether the DA is politically motivated, Schroeder said Huelsman is just blowing smoke. "The only people who think there's a political motivation are the defendants, Schroeder said.
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss OC Weekly's biggest stories. Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts