When police arrived at his house to investigate a drunken hit-and-run, Joseph Ruddy, one of the nation’s most prolific federal narcotics prosecutors, looked so drunk he could barely stand up straight while waiting with his U.S. Justice Department business card in hand. “What are you trying to hand me?” an officer asked. “You realize when they pull my body-worn camera footage and they see this, this is going to go really bad.” That footage obtained by the Associated Press showed Ruddy apparently attempting to leverage his position to minimize the fallout from a Fourth of July crash in which he is accused of drunkenly striking another vehicle and leaving the scene, the Associated Press reports. Despite being charged, Ruddy, 59, remained at work for two months, representing the U.S. in court as recently as last week to notch another win for the sprawling task force he helped create targeting cocaine smuggling at sea. A Justice Department spokesman would not say whether he had been suspended but said that Ruddy, was removed July 11 from his supervisory role at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa. The case also has been referred to the Office of Inspector General.
Such an inspector general’s probe would likely focus on whether Ruddy was trying to use his public office for private gain, said Kathleen Clark, a legal ethics professor at Washington University in St. Louis who reviewed the footage. “It’s hard to see what this could be other than an attempt to improperly influence the police officer to go easy on him,” Clark said. Ruddy, whose blood-alcohol level tested at 0.17%, twice the legal limit, was charged with driving under the influence with property damage, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. Despite his own admissions and witness testimony, he was not charged with leaving the scene of an accident. Ruddy is due in court in his own case on Sept. 27. He’s 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 Ruddy’s pickup. “He never even hit brakes,” a witness told police. “He just kept going and he was swerving all the way up the road. I’m like, ‘No, he’s going to hurt somebody.’ So I just followed him until I got the tag number and just called and reported it.” Officers noted that Ruddy urinated on himself, was unable to walk without help, and failed a field sobriety test.