Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Ann Keough
On Monday, prosecutors told Municipal Court Judge Kathleen Ann Keough that they had struck a deal with Jason Ruiz, 27, to enter a six-month Selective Intervention Program, or SIP, for first-time offenders, that will allow Ruiz to avoid a conviction if he successfully completes it.
But he refused to apologize to Officer Anthony Sauto, sparking heated criticism by the officer, as well as the police union. They said it's the least Ruiz could do after Ruiz's attorney, NAACP President George Forbes, and Cleveland City Councilmen Zach Reed and Jeff Johnson, claimed the arrest was racially motivated.
Keough agreed with Sauto, saying Ruiz should apologize for resisting arrest during an Aug. 21 confrontation at closing time outside the Velvet Dog on West 6th Street.
"The court's policy for 15 years, my policy, has been the arresting officer or a victim in any case has to agree with SIP referral," said Keough. "Either we're going to start a jury trial (on Monday) or we're going to place your client in the first offender program when he stands here in court, apologizes to the officer, whether he hands it to him in writing or says it out loud."
Ruiz's attorney, Dennis LoConti, said his client agreed to apologize after recieving the judge's ultimatum and handed her a written letter.
The judge read the letter aloud, which noted that Ruiz apologized "for all of the events of Oct. 21, 2010, on West Sixth Street, Cleveland, Ohio, which resulted in my contact and a dispute with the Cleveland Police Department and Officer Anthony Sauto."
LoConti said if that is acceptable to the judge, "there's no need to have a jury here" on Monday.
"Oh I'm having a jury here, because if there's any backing up, I'm ready to go," Keough said.
Ruiz, who was recruited to work at high-powered companies from the prestigious Morehouse College, was charged with resisting arrest and criminal trespass, accused of refusing to leave the bar, and then trying to swing his left hand at Sauto while the officer was trying to handcuff him, according to the report.
Ruiz later tried to grab the officer's belt, possibly going for his gun, so Sauto gave Ruiz a "few strikes" to his right eye.
At the time, George Forbes said the arrest was racially motivated, claiming the officer "put a headlock on him, and hit him five times, like Gorgeous George or some wrestler."
But then police released surveillance video that they said backed up the officers' claim.