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Bodycam video reveals federal drug prosecutor handing police enterprise card in DUI crash arrest


TAMPA, Fla. — When police arrived at his home to research a hit-and-run, Joseph Ruddy, one of many nation’s most prolific federal narcotics prosecutors, appeared so drunk he may barely arise straight, leaning on the tailgate of his pickup to maintain his stability.

However he apparently was underneath management sufficient to be ready along with his U.S. Justice Division enterprise card in hand.

“What are you attempting at hand me?” an officer requested. “You notice once they pull my body-worn digital camera footage they usually see this, that is going to go actually dangerous.”

That footage obtained by The Related Press confirmed Ruddy apparently making an attempt to leverage his place to blunt the fallout from a Fourth of July crash through which he’s accused of drunkenly hanging one other car and leaving the scene.

Officers discuss with Joseph Ruddy, exterior his house in Temple Terrace, Fla., on July 4, 2023.Tampa Police Division by way of AP

However regardless of being charged, the 59-year-old Ruddy remained on the job for 2 months, representing america in courtroom as just lately as final week to notch one other win for the sprawling process pressure he helped create 20 years in the past concentrating on cocaine smuggling at sea.

On Wednesday, a day after the AP requested the Justice Division about Ruddy’s standing, the veteran prosecutor was pulled off three pending legal circumstances. A Justice Division spokesman wouldn’t say whether or not he had been suspended however stated that Ruddy, whereas nonetheless employed, had been faraway from his supervisory position on the U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace in Tampa. The case additionally has been referred to the Workplace of Inspector Basic.

Such an inspector basic’s probe would possible concentrate on whether or not Ruddy was attempting to make use of his public workplace for personal achieve, stated Kathleen Clark, a authorized ethics professor at Washington College in St. Louis who reviewed the footage.

“It’s arduous to see what this may very well be aside from an try to improperly affect the police officer to go straightforward on him,” Clark stated. “What may probably be his function in handing over his U.S. Legal professional’s Workplace enterprise card?”

Ruddy, whose blood-alcohol stage examined at 0.17%, twice the authorized restrict, was charged with driving underneath the affect with property harm — a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by as much as a yr in jail. Regardless of his personal admissions and witness testimony, he was not charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

Neither Ruddy nor his lawyer returned messages in search of remark.

Ruddy is understood in regulation enforcement circles as one of many architects of Operation Panama Specific, or PANEX — a process pressure launched in 2000 to focus on cocaine smuggling at sea, combining assets from the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Traditionally, PANEX-generated intelligence contributes to greater than 90% of U.S. Coast Guard drug interdictions at sea. Between 2018 and 2022, the Coast Guard eliminated or destroyed 888 metric tons of cocaine price an estimated $26 billion and detained 2,776 suspected smugglers, a senior Coast Guard official stated in congressional testimony in March. The majority of these circumstances had been dealt with by Ruddy and his colleagues in Tampa, the place PANEX is headquartered.

A former Ironman triathlete, Ruddy enjoys a status amongst attorneys for arduous work and toughness within the courtroom. Amongst his largest circumstances had been a few of the early extraditions from Colombia of high smugglers for the dreaded Cali cartel.

However the majority of circumstances dealt with out of his workplace contain principally poor fishermen from Central and South America who make up the drug commerce’s lowest rungs. Typically, the medication aren’t even sure for American shores and the constitutional ensures of due course of that usually apply in legal circumstances contained in the U.S. are solely loosely noticed.

“Ruddy is on the coronary heart of a expensive and aggressive prosecutor-led dragnet that yearly pulls tons of of low-level cocaine traffickers off the oceans and incarcerates them within the U.S.,” stated Kendra McSweeney, an Ohio State College geographer who’s a part of a workforce finding out maritime interdiction insurance policies.

Analysis by Ohio State’s Interdiction Lab discovered that between 2014 and 2020, the median sentence for smugglers picked up at sea and prosecuted in Tampa was 10 years — longer than some other courtroom within the nation and in comparison with seven years, six months in Miami, which handles the second-largest quantity of such circumstances.

Final Friday, almost two months after his arrest, Ruddy was in courtroom to ratify a plea deal within the case of a Brazilian man, Flavio Fontes Pereira, who in February was discovered by the U.S. Coast Guard with greater than 3.3 tons of cocaine aboard a sailboat off Guinea, in West Africa.

After two weeks aboard the U.S. Coast Guard vessel, Pereira made his preliminary courtroom look in Tampa in March, charged underneath the Maritime Drug Legislation Enforcement Act, which offers the U.S. distinctive arrest powers anyplace on the excessive seas at any time when it determines a vessel is “with out nationality.”

Ruddy is subsequent because of seem in courtroom in his personal case Sept. 27. He’s accused of sideswiping an SUV whose driver had been ready to show at a crimson gentle, clipping a facet mirror and tearing off one other piece of the car that lodged within the fender of Ruddy’s pickup.

“He by no means even hit brakes,” a witness informed police. “He simply stored going and he was swerving all the way in which up the street. I’m like, ‘No, he’s going to harm any individual.’ So I simply adopted him till I acquired the tag quantity and simply known as and reported it.”

When officers arrived at Ruddy’s house within the suburb of Temple Terrace, they discovered him hunched over his pickup, holding his keys and utilizing the car for help, the report stated. Officers famous that he had urinated on himself, was unable to stroll with out assist and failed a area sobriety check.

“I perceive we is perhaps having a greater night time,” Tampa police patrolman Taylor Grant stated earlier than trying on the enterprise card.

“Why didn’t you cease?” the officer requested.

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