Prosecutor allegedly caught on video sliding business card to police investigating a DUI hit-and-run

Joseph Ruddy, 59, was charged with driving under the influence and property damage

Martha McHardy
Friday 08 September 2023 19:18 BST
Federal narcotics prosecutor tries to slide business card to police investigating involvement in DUI hit-and-run

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Police bodycam footage allegedly shows a federal narcotics prosecutor attempting to give his business card to officers who came to his home in Florida to investigate a hit-and-run.

Joseph Ruddy, 59, was charged with driving under the influence and property damage after a Fourth of July crash where he was accused of hitting another vehicle and driving off. He was not charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

He is accused of sideswiping an SUV whose driver had been waiting to turn at a red light, clipping a side mirror and tearing off another piece of the vehicle that lodged in the fender of Mr Ruddy’s pickup.

In the video, shot by an office outside Ruddy’s home in Temple Terrace, the federal prosecutor can be seen attempting to hand his US Justice Department business card to an officer, who instantly warns him the camera is running.

“What are you trying to hand me?” an officer asked, according to The Associated Press. “You realise when they pull my body-worn camera footage and they see this, this is going to go really bad.”

In the footage, the officer accused Mr Ruddy of being “drunk” behind the wheel and not realising he had hit another motorist.

An officer is then heard asking Mr Ruddy: “Why didn’t you stop?”

Joseph Ruddy after his arrest
Joseph Ruddy after his arrest (Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office)

“I didn’t realise it was that serious,” Mr Ruddy told him.

“You hit a vehicle and you ran,” the officer said. “You ran because you’re drunk. You probably didn’t realise you hit the vehicle.”

Police said Mr Ruddy had urinated on himself and also failed a field sobriety test. His blood-alcohol level allegedly tested at 0.17 per cent, twice the legal limit, police said.

Despite being charged he remained on the job for two months, representing the United States in court as recently as last week to notch another win for the sprawling task force he helped create two decades ago targeting cocaine smuggling at sea.

On Wednesday, the veteran prosecutor was pulled off three pending criminal cases, the Associated Press reported.

A Justice Department spokesman would not say whether he had been suspended but said that Mr Ruddy, while still employed, was removed on 11 July from his supervisory role at the US Attorney’s Office in Tampa. The case also has been referred to the Office of Inspector General.

“The Department of Justice holds all personnel, including its assistant US attorneys, to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct,” the spokesman said.

The charge against Mr Ruddy is punishable by up to a year in prison. He is due to appear in court again on 27 September.

Mr Ruddy is known in law enforcement circles as one of the architects of Operation Panama Express, or PANEX — a task force launched in 2000 to target cocaine smuggling at sea, combining resources from the US Coast Guard, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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