The defendant in an upcoming assault trial — and a primary suspect in an alleged prostitution ring — was allowed to remain free without a cash bond after a judge ruled Wednesday that he no longer posed a flight risk.
Ulises Ruiz, one of the alleged operators of the illegal massage parlor “By Spanish,” was required in December to post a $15,000 bond for his release from jail after an incident in which a neighbor says he assaulted her.
In June, the bond was forfeited to the state after police determined the money Ruiz’s girlfriend, Clarissa Lopez, used to bail him out was earned through the illegal massage business, court records show.
A month later, the state petitioned for Ruiz to post $15,000 of his own money to secure his release, arguing before a judge Wednesday that the money originally used no longer belongs to him.
Ruiz’s attorney, Michael Areinoff, asked for him to be released either on his own recognizance or under the supervision of pretrial services.
“This case has wreaked some havoc on his finances and asking that he post another $15,000 would be tremendously burdensome, if not impossible,” Areinoff said.
He argued that Ruiz has no criminal history, is a longtime Tucson resident and has his own business.
In a hearing on Tuesday addressing a separate issue, Ruiz’s attorney told the judge the negative attention he’s received as a result of the media coverage of the prostitution investigation had forced him to close his south-side pet shop.
“This may have wreaked havoc on his finances but the only reason that he doesn’t have it is because it was found by clear and convincing evidence that all of his assets or the assets that were subject to forfeiture were, in fact, the proceeds of criminal activity,” Pima County Deputy Attorney Julie Sottosanti said.
Ruiz is facing prison if convicted on the aggravated assault charge and should be required to post a bond, she argued.
“Nothing’s really changed except that he’s basically become unemployed because he says he’s lost his business,” Sottosanti said. “So his factors have actually gotten worse since the court magistrate asked for the $15,000 bond.”
Ruiz has attended every court hearing since his December arrest and is meeting all the other requirements of his release, including drug and alcohol monitoring by pretrial services, Areinoff said.
Judge Danelle Liwski said she recognized Ruiz from his appearances in court.
“Because of the defendant’s compliance, because the bond is to ensure that he be present, because he has been present at every hearing and because I know he has lifelong ties to the city of Tucson, I don’t find him to be a flight risk,” she said.
All of the other conditions of his release remained in effect, but no additional bond was required.
Ruiz’s trial is scheduled for early November, and Liwski warned him that if he didn’t appear an arrest warrant would be issued and the trial would proceed without him.
No one has been charged as an operator of the massage business, but the victim of the assault alleges that in late November, Ruiz tried to take her phone while she was taking pictures of cars in the parking lot of his property and struck her in the shoulder with a bat when she refused to comply.
The woman and her husband say they had been photographing license plates of the cars after noting expensive vehicles that seemed out of place in their neighborhood.
Ruiz wasn’t arrested that night but he was taken into custody several weeks later, a police report says.
He was released from jail after his girlfriend fed $15,000 cash into an automated bail machine in the jail’s lobby for nearly an hour, according to court records.
In regards to the By Spanish investigation, no charges have been filed against Ruiz or Lopez after a three-year Tucson police investigation.
In July, five Tucson police employees were terminated after internal affairs determined they were involved with the business, either as customers or because they had knowledge of it. Two other TPD employees who had earlier resigned also had their status changed to termination.
The findings of the criminal investigation were turned over to the Pima County Attorney’s Office in June, but no decision has been made if anyone — including the police employees — will be charged.