Surfer Anthony Ruffo admits to drug sales, other charges


Surfer Anthony Ruffo admits to drug sales, other charges

By Cathy Kelly – Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted: 12/12/2011 07:14:18 PM PST
Updated: 12/12/2011 07:18:16 PM PST

SANTA CRUZ – Former professional surfer Anthony Ruffo pleaded no contest Monday to the three charges facing him, including sales of methamphetamine, placing himself at the mercy of Judge Paul Marigonda, prosecutors said.

Marigonda set sentencing for Feb. 21.

Ruffo, 38, is a longtime Santa Cruz professional surfer who won the 1985 Coldwater Classic. He was convicted of meth sales in 2005 and arrested again in July 2010, after a raid on his home on the 1400 block of Laurel Street in which an ounce of methamphetamine was found, authorities said.

Monday, he admitted to possession of methamphetamine for sales, being under the influence and being a felon in possession of a stun gun, prosecutor Rafael Vazquez said.

Marigonda said Ruffo is not eligible to serve time in prison, under the state’s new realignment plan, Vazquez said.

Under the Public Safety Realignment Bill, effective Oct. 1, those convicted of a list of crimes considered nonviolent, nonserious and nonsex-related are directed to local jails and programs to reduce the state prison overcrowding.

Marigonda indicated he might sentence Ruffo to jail time and time outside custody, perhaps on an electronic monitor, Vazquez said.

Vazquez said Ruffo faces a maximum sentence of five years, eight months in custody, but defense attorney Ben Rice said Marigonda indicated it was “highly unlikely” he would sentence him to more than one year in County Jail.

“I’m hoping for something significantly less, given how well Ruffo is doing and how much he has done in the community,” Rice said.

Ruffo has been sober for several months and gives talks at Juvenile Court and in local schools about the dangers of drug use, Rice said. Ruffo also has helped people get sober through the drug treatment program Clear Mind Healthy Planet that he helped bring to Santa Cruz, he said.

At least initially, the treatment was offered free. Friday, 18 people graduated from the program, Rice said.

Vazquez sees it differently, mentioning a recent New York Times article in which Ruffo admitted to selling drugs for a gang.

“Our position is that, if he does any time here, that he does the maximum,” he said. “He’s a convicted drug dealer and he shouldn’t be eligible to use a ‘Get Out of Jail’ card under the governor’s realignment plan. The unfortunate thing for us is that you have drug dealers who are going to get sentences that are very light, and it renders us powerless.”

In the article, Ruffo admitted to selling methamphetamine for a gang before his first conviction, Rice said.

“I’m hoping he will put him on electronic monitor and let him …”

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