Ruby Diaz stood before a Ramsey County district judge Monday pleading for some leniency.
She got it, but not before Judge Leonardo Castro admonished the former St. Paul police officer for the poor judgment she used in stealing a friend’s identity and using it to wire money to a boyfriend imprisoned for attempted murder.
Castro said he continues to struggle with Diaz’s lack of understanding about her crime, and “grapple” with the romance she carried on with the felon, Ramone D. Smaller, a reputed gang member.
“ … I still feel that you continue to minimize your conduct and role,” the judge said before sentencing Diaz, 38, to five years’ probation and 30 days in the county workhouse.
Diaz was convicted in December of identity theft, a felony, for using her best friend’s information to wire $1,500 to her then-boyfriend, who is serving six years in prison for attempted murder. On Dec. 29, she was fired from her job of 14 years.
Before she was sentenced, Diaz told Castro that she didn’t commit the crime as an officer of the law, but rather, “as a person who happened to be a police officer.”
“I’m asking you to give me a chance to show you that I can make smarter choices,” she said.
Castro noted the good work Diaz had accomplished as an officer, but didn’t let her off the hook.
“I don’t think you fully understand the public’s concern … ,” he said. “The public expects a certain level of behavior from you.”
Castro also said that he was concerned with the amount of money Diaz sent, and her possible motive.
Castro’s sentence is a stay of imposition, which allows Diaz’s felony conviction to turn into a misdemeanor if she successfully completes probation.
Managing Hennepin County Attorney Andrew LeFevour, who prosecuted Diaz because of a conflict of interest in the Ramsey County attorney’s office, argued for a stay of execution. That would have sent Diaz to prison if she violated terms of her probation, and the felony would have remained on her record.
LeFevour filed a memo last week urging Castro to be tough in his sentencing. LeFevour called Diaz a liar, and described her conduct at trial as “contemptuous.”
“We believe that there was a lack of candor,” LeFevour said Monday. “A message needs to be sent.”
LeFevour said that Diaz lied on the witness stand when she testified that Smaller accompanied her to the Minneapolis impound lot in October 2013. Police reports show that Diaz went to the lot and retrieved items from a rental car alone, LeFevour wrote in a court brief.
Diaz’s attorney, William Bulmer, said that LeFevour’s accusation was “simply a ploy” to discredit Diaz. He said that Smaller had accompanied Diaz, but that the impound lot didn’t record the information.
Diaz will be allowed to participate in any workhouse programming she may qualify for, which could include work release or electronic home monitoring. She must turn herself in on Feb. 24.
Bulmer believes Diaz will qualify for electronic home monitoring. She works at LA Fitness, and does not intend to challenge her termination from the department, he said.
“Ms. Diaz was happy to leave the department,” Bulmer said after the sentencing. “The job itself, she loved.”
Testifying at her trial, Diaz tearfully accused her department of harassing her for dating Smaller, and for dating a different felon before him. She said officers followed her in unmarked cars and refused to back her up on calls when she was a gang investigator.
“It became hell at work,” she testified.
Diaz first met Smaller, 22, when she was a school resource officer at St. Paul’s Humboldt High School and he was a 12-year-old student. The romance started in 2013 when Smaller turned 21, Diaz testified in court.
Smaller is charged in Ramsey County in multiple violent drive-by shootings, and is to stand trial Feb. 9.
Diaz is subpoenaed to testify at Smaller’s trial. She testified at her trial that she rented a Kia Optima for Smaller in October 2013. Smaller was arrested that same month driving that model of vehicle that had allegedly been repaired because the rear window had been shot out.
Staff writer Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report.