Anthony Ruffo was sentenced today to 730 days in Santa Cruz County Jail, two years in a sheriff's custody program and one year of mandatory supervision after entering a no contest plea on Dec. 22 to charges of distributing methamphetamines with a prior conviction. He was taken into custody and will begin serving his sentence immediately.
A clerk at the Santa Cruz Superior Court explained that because of overcrowding at the jail it is unlikely Ruffo will serve all of his time behind bars. He will be evaluated and monitored by the jail and his sentence could eventually include working on a work crew and being monitored via ankle bracelet.
"I just talked to Ruffo, and he's doing well, he has a good attitude about it all and he's dealing with it. It wasn't the outcome either of us expected," said Ruffo's attorney Ben Rice Tuesday afternoon. "I think justice would be better served if he could go out and keep doing the great work he's been doing in this community, but the judge didn't see it that way. He's made a big impact in this community over the last year, and it's regrettable he won't be able to continue that for awhile. He'd turned over a new leaf and was really trying to make a difference."
Ruffo's sentence was handed down Tuesday in front of a packed courthouse. The onlookers included notable surfers Daryl "Flea" Virostko and Adam Replogle. Flea even made a statement to the court on Ruffo's behalf.
"He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met, but the sad part is he went down the wrong path," explained Santa Cruz surfer Ken "Skindog" Collins. "In a sense it's closure, and he's going to get chance to go in and pay his debt to society. He'll come through this a better man, but this was something that kind of had to happen for everybody's sake. He knew it."
The case has garnered nationwide attention, appearing on the HBO show " Real Sports with Brian Gumbel," as well as in the New York Times. There is also a documentary about Ruffo's life that is in production and set to premiere the summer of 2012.
"I've been filming with him since the beginning of this thing, for over 400 days," said documentarian Rocky Romano, who's directing the Ruffo project and last year received the Humanitarian Film of the Year award from the California Film Awards for his effort on the short documentary "Ride A Wave."
"The reaction today in the courthouse was very emotional," continued Romano. "Anthony really didn't see this coming; he drove himself to court today. He was expecting probation, but this really caught everybody by surprise. I was filming everything, but it was hard, my hands started shaking."
While Ruffo has made great strides in cleaning himself up and becoming a more positive role model for the community, he had no illusions about the possibility of going to jail. "I haven't hidden anything about my story, and I've been trying to convey how bad this stuff is to as many people as I can," Ruffo said in a Dec. 21 conversation. "I know what I did is wrong, and I'm will to face whatever sentence the judge hands down."
The Santa Cruz surf community has struggled with meth-related issues in recent years, including Virostko and Peter Mel who have taken their battles public.
"Whatever happens, I hope this is the end of a dark chapter in Santa Cruz surfing. We want to be known for our talent, not our drug issues. There's a lot of really good surfers coming up and the future looks pretty bright," said Ruffo.