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Sunday, January 20 , 2019, 11:40 am | Fair 62º


Ex-Guadalupe Officer Found Not Guilty in Domestic-Abuse Trial

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court jury on Wednesday found a former Guadalupe police officer not guilty of abusing his spouse last summer during an altercation that witnesses said involved him punching her in the head.

The panel of eight men and four women received the case against Ruben Ramirez on Tuesday afternoon, and returned the verdict a day later.

Ramirez was charged with one misdemeanor count of corporal injury to a spouse for a domestic dispute that became physical in July in Santa Maria.

At the time of the incident, he was a veteran officer with the Guadalupe Police Department. He was recently terminated from the force, but reportedly is appealing his dismissal.

After hearing the court clerk recite not-guilty verdicts for the lone misdemeanor count and lesser charges, Ramirez hugged his defense attorney, Adrian Galvan, who patted his client on the back. Ramirez then put his head down on the counsel table in relief.

"Mr. Ramirez is a hardworking man who has dedicated his life to serving his community," Galvan said after the verdict. "He is looking forward to putting this legal nightmare behind him. Now Mr. Ramirez can go home and rest with his family and three children."

Jurors deliberated for more than seven hours before concluding "no crime was committed," the defense attorney said.

"The jury’s verdict is a testament to the justice system. The justice system worked today," Galvan said.

Deputy District Attorney Nguyen Tran had urged the jury to find Ramirez guilty, noting witnesses' testimony about the incident that left the woman, referred to in court as Jane Doe, with a large egg-shaped knot on her forehead. 

“This was a punch by a man who knew exactly what he was doing that night. It was a punch by a man who consciously chose to use a closed first on his wife,” Tran said. “It wasn’t a punch by a man who was defending himself.”

In addition to the incident prompting the charge, Ramirez allegedly abused his wife in February plus another time between the two attacks, according to testimony during the trial.

In the first incident, he allegedly twisted her arm behind her back, and pulled the woman by her hair with force that cause her to fall in the second incident, Tran said.

But in his closing arguments in the case, Galvan said Ramirez was acting in self defense during the July attack.

He denied his client punched his wife, instead claiming Ramirez used his open palm to control her as she attacked him.

“Ruben did the only thing that he felt he could do, which is straight arm, open palm to the head. And, what happened after that? It stopped the attack,” Galvan said during closing arguments Tuesday.

Ramirez claimed he had a bruise near his eyebrow and a broken blood vessel in his eye from what Galvan called a flurry of slaps from his spouse.

As to the prior assaults, the defense attorney noted his client was not charged, and the woman did not seek medical treatment.

He also contended photos of the woman’s injury were made more dramatic by Santa Maria police Officer Dustin Rhoads' lighting technique.

“What Ruben did was act in fear of an attack,” Galvan said. “He did the only thing that he could, and it wasn’t excessive.”

As he left the scene of the incident, Ramirez called Santa Maria Police Department dispatchers to tell them his location, Galvan said.

In addition to spousal abuse, jurors were told they could consider lesser charges such as domestic battery, simple battery or simple assault, but Galvan maintained his client’s was not guilty of any crime.

“It’s a clean sweep. It’s not guilty on every single charge if you believe self defense occurred or if you have a reasonable doubt that Ruben used self defense,” Galvan said Tuesday.

As the defense attorney sought, jurors also found Ramirez not guilty of the lesser charges.

In addition to the defendant, several others testified about his character, including his mom, a former high school principal and a Santa Maria police officer who is Ramirez’s brother-in-law.

A use-of-force expert also testified.

Ramirez claimed his wife slapped him on the face, punched him the chest and struck him in the groin during the July attack, but the prosecutor questioned the severity of the incident.

“Yet he would have you believe that his wife, someone who was a full eight inches shorter, a full 70 pounds lighter, was the vicious attacker in this case,” Tran said. 

While the wife had visible injuries, Tran said, photos of Ramirez do not reveal any wounds. 

In addition to Jane Doe, their 10-year-old daughter and oldest of their three children, also testified about seeing her parents’ fights.

The prior incidents could be used to prove a pattern of conduct, Tran told jurors.

Ramirez testified in his own defense during the trial, with Tran noting the former officer’s differing stories about what happened.

“His statements are unreliable, they’re inconsistent, uncorroborated,” Tran said, adding the case did not involve justified self defense on the part of Ramirez.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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