VIA – SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL
Local professional surfer Anthony Ruffo looks shocked at his attorney, Ben Rice, as Ruffo is taken directly from the courtroom Tuesday to spend a year in jail for drug sales. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel)
Santa Cruz pro surfer Anthony Ruffo sentenced to jail for drug dealing
By Stephen Baxter – Santa Cruz Sentinelsantacruzsentinel.com
Posted: 02/21/2012 11:20:39 AM PST
SANTA CRUZ – Professional surfer Anthony Ruffo will serve one year in County Jail and potentially three years of work release or electronic monitoring after he pleaded no contest to selling methamphetamine.
In court Tuesday, prosecutor Rafael Vazquez advocated for jail time because he said a weaker sentence would send a “green light” to drug dealers that there are no real consequences to committing crime.
“The fact of the matter is that he’s been dealing. He’s not a victim, he’s victimized,” Vazquez said. “He has destroyed countless lives by providing meth to a lot of people.”
Several of Ruffo’s friends, including professional surfer Darryl “Flea” Virostko supported Ruffo at the hearing and said Ruffo has kicked his drug habit and helped at-risk youths.
To the surprise of Ruffo and his attorney, Ben Rice, Judge Paul Marigonda after the sentencing ordered Ruffo to be handcuffed immediately and sent to County Jail. Rice said he expected a jail sentence, but he expected a few weeks delay before Ruffo would have to report to jail.
“I disagreed with the judge’s conclusion that the community is better off by putting Ruffo in a jail cell for the next year than doing his great work in the community,” said Rice.
“I don’t think there’s any benefit to anybody this way.”
For about 11 months, Ruffo has been in drug treatment and spoken to teens at schools and Juvenile Hall about the dangers of drugs.
In December, Ruffo pleaded to possession of drugs for sale, being under the influence of drugs and being a felon in possession of a stun gun after a raid on his Laurel Street home in 2010. In 2005, Ruffo, 48, was convicted of selling meth.
Ruffo has had a long career as a pro surfer in Santa Cruz. He won the first Coldwater Classic in 1985 and on Feb. 4 won a Volcom Pro/Am surfing event at 26th Avenue against surfers half his age.
However, Vazquez said Ruffo’s critics “inundated” prosecutors with emails about how his meth dealing destroyed young surfers’ lives. Families were torn apart and drug addictions fueled burglaries and other crimes across Santa Cruz, Vazquez said.
Ruffo faced more than five years in state prison before the state’s prison overhaul started six months ago. There are now lighter sentences for drug dealers to make room in prisons for more serious criminals, Marigonda said.
Tuesday, Ruffo was sentenced to two years in state prison, two years in a sheriff’s custody program and one year of county probation supervision. However, “half-time” state sentencing rules dictate that he will be incarcerated for one year in County Jail.
Rice said Ruffo could be eligible for work release or electronic monitoring before that year is finished, but it is unlikely that the Sheriff’s Office would grant it.
The two years of sheriff’s custody include “custody alternatives” such as work release and electronic monitoring. Work release allows an inmate to work during the day and return to the jail at night.
Dressed in an untucked blue dress shirt and slacks, Ruffo appeared humbled …
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