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Body Camera Footage Reveals High-Profile Federal Prosecutor Producing Department of Justice Credentials During DUI Incident

by Andrew Wright
10 comments
Federal Prosecutor DUI Arrest

When law enforcement authorities arrived at his residence in response to a hit-and-run accident, Joseph Ruddy, a renowned federal prosecutor specializing in narcotics cases, appeared highly intoxicated, struggling to maintain an upright position and using the tailgate of his pickup truck for support.

Nevertheless, Ruddy was coherent enough to present his Department of Justice business card to the attending officer.

“What are you offering me?” inquired the officer, adding, “Do you understand the ramifications when the footage from my body-worn camera becomes public? This will not bode well for you.”

Subsequent review of the body camera footage by The Big Big News suggests that Ruddy sought to exploit his professional status to mitigate the repercussions stemming from a Fourth of July incident in which he is accused of driving under the influence and hitting another vehicle before fleeing the scene.

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Though charged, the 59-year-old Ruddy continued his prosecutorial duties for an additional two months, even appearing in court as recently as the previous week. He was part of a large-scale task force he had helped establish two decades ago aimed at disrupting maritime cocaine smuggling operations.

A day after an inquiry by the Associated Press into Ruddy’s employment status, the Justice Department removed him from three ongoing criminal cases. Although the department’s spokesperson did not disclose whether Ruddy was suspended, it was confirmed that he was relieved of his supervisory role at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa on July 11. The matter has been referred to the Office of the Inspector General for further investigation.

Kathleen Clark, a law ethics professor at Washington University in St. Louis, noted that the Inspector General’s investigation would likely scrutinize whether Ruddy was attempting to exploit his public role for personal advantage.

Ruddy, whose blood-alcohol level was recorded at 0.17%, twice the legal limit, faces charges of DUI with property damage, a first-degree misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison. Although witness accounts and his own statements suggest he fled the scene, no charges were levied for that offense.

Neither Ruddy nor his legal representatives have responded to requests for comment.

Ruddy is a known figure in law enforcement, being one of the key architects of Operation Panama Express— a coordinated effort that combines resources from the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to combat sea-based cocaine smuggling.

Ruddy’s career has not been without controversy, as many of the cases overseen by his office primarily involve underprivileged fishermen from Central and South America. These cases often bypass standard constitutional protections for due process.

Research by Ohio State University’s Interdiction Lab revealed that smugglers prosecuted in Tampa received a median sentence of 10 years—significantly higher than sentences in other jurisdictions.

Ruddy is slated to appear in court for his own case on September 27. He is accused of colliding with an SUV at a red light and leaving behind a piece of the vehicle lodged in his own truck’s fender.

Upon the police’s arrival at Ruddy’s residence in Temple Terrace, officers noted that he had urinated on himself and failed a field sobriety test.

“Why didn’t you stop?” questioned the attending officer.

Ruddy, slurring his words, responded, “I didn’t realize it was that serious.”

The officer retorted, “You hit a vehicle and fled the scene. You fled because you were intoxicated, and you likely didn’t even realize you had hit another vehicle.”


Reporting contributed by Goodman in Miami. Contact the AP’s global investigative team at [email protected].

DUI Arrest, Federal Prosecutor, Body Camera Footage, Justice Department, Hit-and-Run, Legal Ethics, Public Officials, Law Enforcement, U.S. News, Tampa Office

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10 comments

LegalEagle September 8, 2023 - 11:13 pm

This has serious ethical implications. I mean an inspector general’s probe? That could be career-ending for Ruddy. This is a big deal.

Reply
Rachel_G September 9, 2023 - 12:55 am

Two months on the job after being charged? That’s crazy! This incident really needs to be looked into more deeply.

Reply
Fiona September 9, 2023 - 6:35 am

If his blood alcohol was 0.17%, how is he not charged with leaving the scene? there’s witness testimony too. Seems like they’re going easy on him, doesn’t it?

Reply
WallStWatcher September 9, 2023 - 11:19 am

This scandal could be a real setback for the DOJ’s reputation. Especially considering Ruddy was such a big player in the Panama Express operation.

Reply
Sarah_M September 9, 2023 - 11:22 am

omg, handing over his justice dept card? That’s brazen even for a lawyer. Really makes u wonder how often this kinda stuff happens but isn’t caught on cam.

Reply
JohnDoe September 9, 2023 - 1:23 pm

Wow, this story is nuts. A federal prosecutor, no less, caught in such a compromising situation. I can’t believe he tried to use his DOJ card to get outta this. What was he thinking?

Reply
Mike87 September 9, 2023 - 2:33 pm

This story just goes to show that nobody’s above the law, not even those who are supposed to uphold it. Interested to see how this all plays out in court.

Reply
TedTalks September 9, 2023 - 3:02 pm

What happened to integrity and setting an example. If this is the behavior of a federal prosecutor, what can we expect from others in the system?

Reply
CrypticCoder September 9, 2023 - 4:50 pm

Handing over a DOJ card in a situation like that is not only unethical, but it’s also desperate. It taints the image of law enforcement agencies for sure.

Reply
Emily2021 September 9, 2023 - 9:15 pm

can’t believe he’s still employed. Wonder what message that sends to the public about accountability within the justice system.

Reply

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