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Finding normal after ‘not guilty’ verdict

Michael McGee | 6/4/2013, 7:49 p.m. | Updated on 3/15/2014, 1:01 a.m.
Reggie Ruffin Michael McGee

The parents of the terrorized child came to Ruffin and complained. Ruffin then spanked the child with a belt.

Once his girlfriend came home, Ruffin said, they argued over the punishment to the point where Ruffin moved out. It was then that the girlfriend made a report of child abuse to law enforcement.

That phone call led to Ruffin’s second felony arrest. The charge was injury to a child and yet another lengthy investigation. Ultimately, it was determined that no abuse had occurred. For the second time in less than two years a jury found Ruffin not guilty of a violent felony charge – a rarity for a Black man in Dallas, Kurtz pointed out.

A long recovery

The stigma of the charges hangs on Ruffin to this day. Since all of this began, Ruffin has lost income due to his jail stays. He estimates that in total he spent a year in jail. Funds have also dried up from fighting his cases and trying to get his arrests expunged.

In a letter he sent September 2012 to Mayor Mike Rawlings and Police Chief David Brown, Ruffin described the events of his two felony run-ins with the law, the effects the arrests have had on his life, and what he views as misconduct on the part of law enforcement.

He also explained that the lack of funds has made it difficult to pay for everyday expenses and car care, and he has had issues renewing his driver’s license. And even though he has been ticketed, he has to drive his car because the only jobs that Ruffin can get now are usually the ones that exist when public transportation stops running after 10 p.m.

“I lost numerous job opportunities because of the pending felony charges hanging over my head,” he continued in his letter, referring to the time he’s spent in dealing with his 2009 and 2010 arrests.

Finding work has been difficult for him due to the arrests showing up on background checks when he applies for jobs. Charges show up in these reports that look suspicious to potential employers. But having his record expunged – which would remove the charges from his criminal record – comes with its own hurdles.

“They say that you can file it yourself,” Ruffin explained. “But when I did that, I got mine denied.” The reason given was that Ruffin was still involved with a case, yet he has paperwork showing that he found not guilty. “Then of course, when they reject it, [I found out] you really have to get an attorney to get it done.”

The expungement process is difficult without representation, Kurtz said.

“Theoretically it can be done without a lawyer so that the average person could do it. Well, it doesn’t work that way.” Kurtz used Ruffin’s case as an example. ”If you were going to tell Reggie ‘Well, all you have to do is prepare a petition to expunge, and notify the F.B.I., and the DPS in Austin …’ He doesn’t have the ability to do that. He doesn’t have any tools. He is stuck being dependant on a lawyer.”