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Ruffin v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

April 14, 2016

LEVI M. RUFFIN, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE

         Submitted January 28, 2016.

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CF3-10563-10). (Hon. Michael L. Rankin, Trial Judge).

         Jeffrey L. Light was on the brief, for appellant.

         Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., Acting United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and Elizabeth Trosman, Chrisellen R. Kolb, and Ryan M. Malone, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

         BEFORE: GLICKMAN and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges; and FARRELL, Senior Judge.

         OPINION

Page 800

         JUDGMENT

         BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Judge.

         This case was submitted to the court on the transcript of record and the briefs filed, and without presentation of oral argument. On consideration whereof, and for the reasons set forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby

         ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the matter is remanded to direct the trial court to order the return of the appellant's money that he paid into the Violent Victims Act Fund (" VVC" ) as part of his sentence for his now-reversed convictions.

         Dated: April 14, 2016.

         Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judge : We reversed appellant Levi Ruffin's convictions of misdemeanor assault on a police officer (" APO" ) and felony threats (directed at a police car) because of insufficient evidence. See Ruffin v. United States, 76 A.3d 845, 847-48 (D.C. 2013) (" Ruffin I " ).[1] Following our decision, Mr. Ruffin moved the trial court to seal his arrest records, see D.C. Code § 16-802 (2012 Repl.), issue a certificate of innocence, see D.C. Code § 2-422 (2012 Repl.) and 28 U.S.C. § 2513 (2004 Supp.), and return the $250 that he was required to pay into the Violent Victims Act Fund (" VVC Fund" ) for his now-reversed convictions. The trial court granted the motion in part, sealing the arrest records of Mr. Ruffin's overturned convictions except for the burglary charge on which the jury had acquitted, see supra note 1, but denying his requests for a certificate of innocence and to return his $250.

         On appeal, Mr. Ruffin primarily argues that the trial court erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to issue a certificate of innocence and demands a remand. He also renews his request for the return of the $250 that he paid into the VVC Fund.[2] While we agree with Mr. Ruffin that the trial court has the authority to issue a certificate of innocence, we nonetheless affirm the trial court's decision on the alternative ground that the existing record conclusively shows that Mr. Ruffin was not entitled to such relief. We conclude that Mr. Ruffin is not entitled to a certificate of innocence under either D.C. Code § 2-422 or 28 U.S.C. § 2513 because he cannot demonstrate that he did not " by his misconduct, cause or bring about his own prosecution." D.C. Code § 2-422. However, we agree that Mr. Ruffin is entitled to reimbursement from the VVC Fund, and we remand for the

Page 801

trial court to order the return of Mr. Ruffin's money.[3]

         I. Factual Background

         The facts of this case are explained in greater detail in Ruffin I. Essentially, on June 12, 2010, at approximately 5:00 a.m., the police responded to a 911 call about a possible burglary after a stranger was seen reaching his hand into the window of an apartment. Arriving four minutes later, Officer Carlos Amaya observed Mr. Ruffin, who was by himself in the alley behind the apartment building, hop over a short retaining wall and suspiciously look over his shoulder towards a police car entering the alley from the opposite side. Because Mr. Ruffin was so focused on the police car, he did not notice Officer Amaya and bumped into him. When Officer Amaya placed his hand on Mr. Ruffin's shoulder, Mr. Ruffin instinctively brushed his hand away, which culminated in Mr. Ruffin's arrest for, inter alia, burglary and APO, and later felony threats (directed at a police car) for threatening to " kick the windows out" of the police car in which he was being transported. The jury ultimately convicted Mr. Ruffin of APO (brushing Officer Amaya's hand off his shoulder) and felony threats (to kick the windows out of the police car), but it acquitted him of the first-degree burglary charge.

         On direct appeal, we reversed Mr. Ruffin's APO and felony threats (directed at a police car) convictions.[4] Specifically, we held that Mr. Ruffin's " ephemeral elbow jerk in response to a police officer reaching towards his shoulder did not amount to 'resisting' a police officer" as necessary for an APO conviction. Ruffin I, supra, 76 A.3d at 851. We also held that the felony threats statute did not criminalize threats directed against property owned by the District of Columbia government. Id. at 859.

         Following our decision, Mr. Ruffin filed a motion for the trial court to seal his arrest records, issue him a certificate of innocence under D.C. Code § 2-422 and 28 U.S.C. § 2513, and return the $250 that he paid into the VVC Fund. Without waiting for a response from the government, the trial court granted the motion in part and denied it in part. With regard to the arrest records, the trial court concluded that Mr. Ruffin was entitled to have the arrest records for his overturned convictions sealed based on Ruffin I.[5] However, the trial court did not seal Mr. Ruffin's arrest record for burglary, even though the jury had acquitted him of that charge at trial. The court concluded that the fact that Mr. Ruffin was acquitted does ...


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