By Ryan Gonzales
On February 3rd, 2017, Judge Paul Richardson presided over the preliminary hearing of People v. Edel Ruiz. Mr. Ruiz is being charged with robbery in the 2nd degree, false imprisonment, inflicting corporal injury and domestic battery on his girlfriend; and the endangerment of his infant child.
“I wanted an ambulance, because I thought he was having a mental breakdown,” testified EV, as she timidly recounted the incident that occurred on August 10th, 2016.
“EV”, the girlfriend and mother of Edel Ruiz’s daughter, told the court that the night prior to the incident, she had dropped her 3-month old daughter at her sister’s house and went out with friends. During the night out, EV testified that she had a sexual encounter that resulted in “hickeys” on her neck.
The following morning, EV had picked up her daughter and went back to her apartment. While taking a nap with her daughter, EV woke up to sound of someone ringing the door bell.
As she opened the door and saw that it was Edel, EV testified that she ran back to her bedroom to put on a sweater to cover the hickeys. However, EV’s efforts were ineffective since Edel ended up seeing the hickeys and went into a psychotic episode.
The prosecution asked if Mr. Ruiz grabbed EV’s neck when he saw the hickeys, EV responded, “Yes, he gently touched my neck, because he couldn’t believe it.”
As Edel became extremely emotional, EV told the court that she wanted to get out of the situation, so she packed her backpack and took her daughter outside. However, Edel had grabbed the strap of EV’s backpack in an attempt to make her stay. Although Mr. Ruiz had let go of the strap, EV ended up falling on her backside while holding their child.
“I was calm, but I didn’t want to talk about it. That’s why I wanted to leave” stated EV. Yet, EV went back inside her apartment stating, “He was just crying, that’s why I agreed to speak to him, to calm him down.”
During their argument, EV testified that Mr. Ruiz became psychotic and grabbed a knife from her kitchen and attempted to stab himself in the stomach. When the prosecution asked if Mr. Ruiz was successful in cutting himself, EV stated, “No, because I left the house.”
EV took the opportunity to call the police when she ran outside, but she testified that Mr. Ruiz had heard her talking to dispatch and ran outside as well.
While EV was talking on the phone, Edel ran up to her and took her wallet out of her purse got into his car and drove away. When the prosecution inquired why did Edel took her wallet, EV responded that he did not want her to leave.
Kayla Brassfield, the investigating officer of the Davis Police Department, testified that she was the responding officer to the dispatch call and the first arrive on the scene. Officer Brassfield put out a warrant for Mr. Ruiz’s arrest and took EV’s statement.
During Officer Brassfield testimony, the court found discrepancies with the EV’s statement given on direct and cross examination and the report taken at the time of the incident.
Officer Brassfield told the court that EV stated that they were a 3 year “on-off again” relationship and had recently broke up, and Mr. Ruiz was in the process of moving out.
However, in the course of their relationship, EV told Officer Brassfield that she applied for a restraining order against Mr. Ruiz, but it expired and she never served the order. Also, EV testified on direct examination that she did not remember why she applied for the restraining order, but Officer Brassfield told the court that in EV’s statement she had applied because of past arguments turned physical.
Furthermore, EV testified that Mr. Ruiz gently touched her neck, while Officer Brassfield testified that EV said in her statement that Edel grabbed her neck with both hands and shock her, stating, “I’m so mad at you.” In spite of that, EV stated that she was breathing controllably.
When EV was testifying about the argument on direct examination, the prosecution inquired if Edel had successfully cut his stomach and if tried cutting his wrist by biting them, which she answered no to both. However, Officer Brassfield stated that EV told her that there were small blood dots on his shirt where the knife punctured his skin and that he had tried gnawing at his wrist.
Officer Brassfield testified that she questioned Mr. Ruiz why he stabbed himself with a knife and bit his wrist during the argument, he stated, “I wanted to take the pain away…I was at my breaking point.” Mr. Ruiz told Officer Brassfield that he grabbed EV’s arm and dropped down to his knees and begged her to stay, but let go because he did not want her to get hurt.
Although he denied to grabbing EV’s neck, he admitted to taking her wallet so she couldn’t leave and buy things for his daughter.
As the preliminary hearing concluded, Judge Richardson asked to hear any final arguments from the defense and prosecution.
Deputy Public Defender Stephen Betz began his argument by the motion to sustain the 2nd degree robbery and false imprisonment charge. Mr. Betz argued that an act of pick pocketing a wallet does not constitute the grand theft of a person. Also, Mr. Betz argued that EV agreed to stay with Mr. Ruiz even when she had the ability to leave, thus he moved to dismiss the charge or reduce the charge to a misdemeanor if only the court found sufficient evidence.
Although Mr. Betz moved to submit on the charges of domestic battery as there was unwanted touching involved during the argument, he move to dismiss the charges of corporal punishment, as he believed that there was insufficient evidence that the bruising on the alleged victim’s neck came from the contact of Mr. Ruiz.
Mr. Betz concluded that Mr. Ruiz had a history of psychosis and did not have updated medication, thus the unexpected event of his ex-girlfriend caused him to lose control, thus should not be punished for his mental illness.
In Judge Richardson’s ruling, he took in the consideration of Mr. Ruiz’s mental health and how traumatic the incident may have been for him, but since there is evidence of an application for a restraining order due to physical altercations and testimonies of either putting his hands around or touching the alleged victim’s neck, he reduced the corporal injury charge to a misdemeanor.
Judge Richardson also believed that the false imprisonment, 2nd degree robbery and the endangerment of a child charges held minimal factual evidence, thus ruled to not hold those charges against Mr. Ruiz.
Although Judge Richardson believed that the correct form of justice was misdemeanor charges, both the defense and prosecution moved to resolve the matter at a later date in light of his ruling.