The 12-time felon and Gilroy man who killed his wife’s puppy by throwing it against a wall more than a year ago was sentenced Friday morning to six years in state prison, a much shorter sentence than the 25 years to life he was facing.
Bud Wally Ruiz, 53, spoke before Judge Edward Lee in the South County Courthouse, promising that if given another chance, he would change his behavior.
"I've been putting a lot of work into staying sober and studying myself," Ruiz said. "I'm very apologetic of what I did."
Ruiz killed his wife’s puppy, a Chihuahua named Teddy, in May 2011 by throwing it against a wall at her home during an argument in the 8800 block of Morey Way, according to the Gilroy Police Department. The puppy was a gift he had given her just several weeks before.
Ruiz has four prior convictions for assault with a deadly weapon – two in Santa Clara County and two in Fresno County.
Based on his prior felonies, Ruiz faced 25 years to life because of the California Three-Strikes Law, which says that the minimum sentence for three-time repeat offenders with serious felony convictions is 25 years, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.
But Lee had compassion on Ruiz, citing a "decreasing cycle of violence" in Ruiz's life, and removed three of Ruiz's four prior felonies for assault with a deadly weapon and treated him as if he was only a two-time felon.
Dressed in brown prison garb with handcuffs and a chain around his waist, his long straight black hair put in a half ponytail, Ruiz's mood was calm but not somber. He smiled at times, and made a joke to the bailiff while waiting for his turn to be sentenced. The bailiff gave a hearty laugh.
Troy Benson, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, presented Ruiz as an "irredeemable" lifelong violent criminal.
"Is there any evidence that leads people to believe all this is going to stop?" Benson asked, rhetorically.
Thompson Sharkey, Ruiz's public defense attorney, said that killing his wife's puppy had an "element of accidental nature," and noted in terms of violence, it was a "lesser crime" than his past convictions. He also said that Ruiz has taken "steps to get better" in his battle against alcoholism, and presented a certificate from a recovery program completion to the judge to show that Ruiz is seeking help for his addictions.
"This man has excellent prospects for the future," Sharkey said.
Sabrina Ruiz, Ruiz's grown daughter, testified on behalf of her father. Her perky 3-year-old daughter played on the floor of the courtroom as she spoke.
"Our whole family suffers from addiction. I have been recovered for four-and-a-half years. My kids were taken from me, but I have received them back," Sabrina said, pausing to compose herself.
"My dad is a very loving person, and under the right circumstances I believe he can do well," she said.
Sabrina took off her glasses to wipe tears from her eyes.
"He called me, and promised me that if he got a second chance, he would change," she said.
Lee noted in his decision that the "love of a family member, and there are probably several, is not easily earned and is easily lost," and used Sabrina's testimony as a mitigating factor for Ruiz.
In deciding whether or not Ruiz fit the scope of the current Three-Strikes Law, he told the court that "these are some of the most difficult decisions I have to make."
"Most of us go through life without ever having a felony, but you have managed to amass 12," Lee said. Ruiz also has 25 misdemeanors and is a registered sex offender, according to the Megan's Law registry.
Testifying against Ruiz was Leroy Moyer, director of Voices for Pets, a Bay Area animal rights organization.
“Bud Ruiz is exactly the type of person that voters were thinking of when they made the Three-Strikes Law," Moyer said.
Passed in 1994 by California voters, the Three-Strikes Law is up for reform this year by way of Proposition 36, which seeks to scale back the law to apply only to “serious” convicts, such as murderers, rapists and child molesters, according to the proposition's website.
Supporters of Proposition 36 claim that reserving the Three-Stikes Law for more serious felons will eliminate unnecessary life sentences and save California $100 million a year.
District Attorney Jeff Rosen is one of the proposition's endorsers.
"Prop 36 ensures consistency and justice under the Three-Strikes Law. It reflects the best practice for Three Strikes cases in California; maintains public safety; and will save taxpayers millions of dollars," he said in a written statement.
Ruiz has served 502 days in custody since the incident, which amount to 1,004 days, or 2.75 years toward his six-year sentence.