COVID Jail Math Doesn’t Add Up for Man Sentenced to 5 Years in Domestic Violence Case

By Katherine Longjohn

RIVERSIDE, CA – Michael Ruiz, a defendant convicted of domestic violence who represented himself in this case, was sentenced to five years in prison despite the victim not wanting him to be prosecuted—and the court didn’t count more than 346 days of good credit for time-served.

The sentencing of Ruiz Wednesday in Riverside County Superior Court called into question the role COVID-19 plays in determining the amount of credit someone incarcerated is granted for the time they already spent in jail following the issuance of a sentence.

Before Judge Randall Stamen delivered the sentence, Ruiz expressed his commitment to cooperate with the court in its ruling and added that he and his spouse are going to remain together regardless of the outcome in this case.

“I’ll accept anything. All of it. And I will go by what the court rules on it…I’m more than willing to cooperate. I deserve a full chance. [My spouse] wants it too, our kids, our entire family. Everything is on the line right now,” Ruiz said.

Judge Stamen considered the aggravating and mitigating factors in this case, including Ruiz’s statements made during this sentencing, the fact that the incident occurred while a no-negative contact order was in place against Ruiz and the victim did not want prosecution.

In specific reference to the victim’s testimony in this case, Judge Stamen noted it is common for victims of domestic violence to not want prosecution, thereby making this seemingly mitigating factor ultimately unpersuasive.

In his conclusion, Judge Stamen found that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors in this case and consequently found probation inappropriate. Instead, Ruiz was sentenced to five years in prison.

Following the sentencing an issue arose over the amount of credit for time served that should be granted to Ruiz, who in total served 601 days at the time of sentencing.

While Judge Stamen originally credited Ruiz the full 601 days he already served, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Magno objected, arguing Ruiz is only entitled to 346 days of credit as opposed to the full 601 days since probation was not granted and a prison sentence was imposed.

In response, Ruiz advocated for the full 601 days of credit by referencing the strict regulations in prison put in place in response to COVID-19, specifically citing 23-hour lockdowns and the fact he’d been kept in “segregation” for the totality of his time served.

When DDA Magno maintained that this issue is a matter of the rule of law and argued the court does not have discretion in deciding this issue but is bound by law, Ruiz responded by asking, “if COVID matters in the courtroom, shouldn’t it also matter in the jails?”

Given the rule of law, the judge gave in to the DDA’s argument, and found that of Ruiz’ 601 days incarcerated, he is only entitled to 346 days of credit for time served.

About The Author

Katherine is a senior at USC majoring in Political Science with a minor in Gender and Social Justice. As an aspiring lawyer, she plans on attending law school after finishing her undergraduate degree in May 2022.

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