A 54-year-old Kalispell man arrested in 2011 while hauling marijuana to Great Falls is back in court after his petition for early termination of his sentence went seriously awry.
According to court records, Robin Ruiz and his next-door neighbor, Lief Erickson, 51, were stopped by law enforcement on U.S. 2 near Lake Five Road on Feb. 3, 2011. A search of their vehicle turned up more than three pounds of marijuana, 300 capsules containing THC and five vials of suspected THC honey.
Erickson and Ruiz defended themselves by claiming they were delivering medical marijuana products to a caregiver in Great Falls for distribution to patients.
The Medical Marijuana Growers Association came to their aid and sued Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan, claiming Ruiz and Erickson were legally transferring marijuana under the state’s Medical Marijuana Act.
Flathead County District Court Judge Stewart Stadler, however, ruled that the Medical Marijuana Act did not allow for medical marijuana transactions between caregivers. The Montana Supreme Court later upheld Stadler’s decision on appeal.
Ruiz and Erickson eventually pleaded no contest to felony criminal possession with intent to distribute. Flathead County District Court Judge David Ortley sentenced Ruiz to four years deferred and gave Erickson a four-year suspended sentence.
Ruiz ran into trouble about seven months before his sentencing when he was seen conversing with his co-defendant, but he still got the deferred sentence — with a provision allowing him to petition for early termination.
Following sentencing, Ruiz’s attorney, Tim Baldwin, filed for a clarification on whether Ruiz could possess a firearm while on probation. Baldwin said Ruiz was a farmer and might need to shoot wolves. Ortley, however, stuck with the language in the original sentence, leaving the matter up to probation officers to decide.
Ruiz petitioned for early termination on May 29, but less than a week later the probation office issued a surprise violation report. Noting that Ruiz had just been approved for early termination before learning of the violations, the probation officer recommended revoking Ruiz’s sentence and re-sentencing him to five years with the Department of Corrections with two years suspended and a recommendation for the Connection Corrections boot camp.
According to the report, Ruiz allegedly had worked in North Dakota without notifying the probation office; possessed two assault rifles and two handguns that were fully loaded with rounds in the chamber; had three bottles of vodka stashed around his home; had been seen drinking and shooting firearms on his property; and, according to bank statements, made dozens of purchases at area liquor stores.
Much more serious were allegations Ruiz’s wife made in a petition for a temporary order of protection she filed after Ruiz was locked up in the county jail on a $40,000 bond.
Ruiz’s wife described 20 years of brutal treatment by her husband, including physical and verbal abuse, numerous calls to the sheriff’s office, a permanent black eye and getting choked nearly to death. She said her grown children were afraid to visit their parents, and that she thought her situation would get worse once her husband found out she had filed for protection.
Ruiz posted bond on June 11 after it was reduced to $5,000 and was released on conditions. A hearing on his petition for early termination is set for June 26.
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