Ruffin v. State

Decision Date02 October 2017
Docket NumberNo. 1655,1655
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland


No. 1655


September Term, 2016
October 2, 2017

Circuit Court for Howard County
Case No. 13-K-16-056519


Eyler, Deborah S., Wright, Kenney, James A., III (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Opinion by Kenney, J.

*This is an unreported opinion, and it may not be cited in any paper, brief, motion, or other document filed in this Court or any other Maryland Court as either precedent within the rule of stare decisis or as persuasive authority. Md. Rule 1-104.

Page 2

Appellant, Tavian Ruffin, was indicted in the Circuit Court for Howard County, Maryland, and charged with second degree assault of Brandi Carney, violation of a protective order, resisting arrest, making a false statement to a police officer, second degree assault of a law enforcement officer (Officer Andrew Saffran), two additional counts of second degree assault of Officer Saffran, and one count of second degree assault of Officer James Tippett. Appellant was tried by a jury, and the court granted a motion for judgment of acquittal on the count charging second degree assault of Officer Tippett at the end of the State's case-in-chief. At the end of all the evidence, the State entered a nol pros as to second degree assault of a law enforcement officer. The jury acquitted appellant of second degree assault of Brandi Carney, but convicted him of violating a protective order and resisting arrest. When the jury was unable to reach a verdict on two counts charging second degree assault of Officer Saffran and the one count of making a false statement to a police officer, the court declared a mistrial as to those three counts.1 Appellant was sentenced to ninety days for violating a protective order and three years for resisting arrest, all of which was suspended, to be followed by three years supervised probation.2 Appellant timely appealed and presents the following questions for our review:

1. Did the trial court err when it refused to instruct the jury on self-defense?

Page 3

2. Did the trial court abuse its discretion when it permitted Officer Saffran to testify after he violated the court's sequestration order?

For the following reasons, we shall affirm.


Brandi Carney petitioned for a protective order against appellant in June 2015. Thereafter, appellant was personally served with an initial Interim Protective Order, and a Final Protective Order that was issued against appellant on June 23, 2015. The Final Protective Order provided, in part, that appellant was not to abuse, threaten or harass Carney, and was not to contact or attempt to contact Carney, either at her residence or her place of employment during the duration of the protective order (June 22, 2016.).

On February 15, 2016, while that order was in effect, Carney woke to the sound of someone banging on the door to her residence at 1:00 a.m. When she opened the door, she found the "clearly intoxicated" appellant, who proceeded to enter her residence uninvited. They argued for approximately fifteen minutes over a matter of some money, with Carney telling appellant to leave. Near the end of that argument, Carney slapped appellant and appellant slapped her back. According to Carney, he "backhanded [her] across the face." After Carney told appellant she was calling the police, appellant left.

Following Carney's 911 call, Officer Jason Sagel and Officer Sara Dorsey, of the Howard County Police Department, arrived at Carney's residence at around 1:30 a.m. Prior to speaking to Carney, the officers noticed vehicle tire tracks and footprints in the newly fallen snow, leading towards and away from Carney's residence. The officers learned that appellant had just been to Carney's residence and assaulted her during the

Page 4

course of an argument. They also learned, and verified, that there was a protective order in effect at the time.3

Carney described appellant to the officers and they obtained further identifying information from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, including his name, his address, and his photograph. Officer Sagel also learned that there were two open arrest warrants for appellant, and broadcast a radio alert for other police officers to be on the lookout for appellant. That broadcast included information that appellant might be found at his residence at 6721 Iron Ore in Elkridge, Maryland.

Officer Andrew Saffran, along with Officer James Tippett, responded to that address at 1:30 a.m. on February 15, 2016. Shortly after the police officers arrived, a vehicle pulled into the parking lot. Because the front seat passenger matched appellant's description, Officer Saffran asked the passenger to identify himself. He said his name was "Travis Scott" and that he lived at 6701 Iron Ore. Officer Saffran identified appellant, in court, as the passenger who provided the false name. He further testified that appellant eventually admitted that he actually lived at 6721 Iron Ore.

Officers Saffran and Tippett accompanied appellant as he entered the "atrium" or stairwell area of the apartment complex near 6721 Iron Ore. According to Officer Saffran, appellant was not then under arrest, but he was being detained and was not free to leave

Page 5

because Officer Saffran wanted to positively identify appellant based on the information that there were open arrest warrants for Tavian Ruffin. Officer Saffran testified that he told appellant that he was being detained and explained to him that, in the event of open arrest warrants, they would be "bound to serve that warrant and take him into custody." Had the warrants not been confirmed, Officer Saffran testified that he would have consulted with Officer Sagel to determine if there was probable cause to make a warrantless arrest.

While waiting in the atrium/stairwell area, appellant's mother came down and confirmed appellant's identity as Tavian Ruffin. And, when the police officers were notified, via their police radios, that the open arrest warrants for appellant were "confirmed," Officer Saffran told appellant he was under arrest and ordered him to place his hands behind his back. According to Officer Saffran, when he reached for appellant's arm, appellant "started to run past me and evaded my grasp and exited through the door which I was standing beside and then left the building." Officer Saffran then ran after appellant.

Officer Saffran, yelling for appellant to stop, chased him outside the apartment complex, through approximately two inches of fallen snow. During the pursuit, appellant looked back at Officer Saffran and ran into a light pole. That allowed Officer Saffran to catch up to appellant and grab him around the waist. At that point, Officer Tippett also caught up and grabbed appellant.

While the three men were on the ground struggling, Officer Saffran "yelled several times to Mr. Ruffin to stop resisting and put his hands behind his back." The three slid

Page 6

down a snow covered hill, with appellant "flailing around and swatting to try and break [Officer Saffran's] grasp[.]" Officer Saffran described appellant as "frantic" and "was trying to get away and was trying to get us off of him." Officer Saffran continued to yell for appellant to stop resisting, and appellant continued "swatting his arms and feet, swatting and kicking and trying to break [Officer Saffran's] grasp off of him and to try and get away."

When they reached the bottom of the hill, Officer Saffran was able to get on top of appellant to "manipulate his arms and flip him over to his back." After several minutes, and with the assistance of Officer Tippett, the officers were able to place appellant in handcuffs.

Handcuffed and "irate," appellant continued to yell, and be uncooperative as the two officers walked him back up the hill. Officer Saffran testified that, as they climbed the hill, appellant would go limp and let his weight drop to the ground, which had the effect of causing the officers to fall. As a result, it took three to five minutes to walk appellant back up the hill. Eventually, the officers managed to buckle appellant in the back seat of Officer Saffran's patrol car and to transport him to Howard County Central Booking.4

On cross-examination, Officer Saffran testified as follows:

Q. Officer Saffran, I just want to make sure I understood something correctly. I believe you testified that when you initially detained [appellant] in the stairwell, you were trying to confirm warrants. Is that right?

Page 7

A. That's right.

Q. And you were also waiting for further information from Officer Sagel about his situation and whether there was any arrestable offense as a result of that. Is that right?

A. That's right.

Q. And did you get confirmation on the warrants before you heard back from Officer Sagel?

A. Yes.

Q. So, the reason that you relied upon to arrest [appellant] was the outstanding warrant. Is that right?

A. That's right.

Q. Okay. And dispatch confirmed them and informed you they would be faxed to Central Booking. Is that right?

A. That's right.

In the defense case, appellant called his mother, Lakesha Ruffin ("Ms. Ruffin") as a witness. She testified that, on the early morning hours of February 15, 2016, she received a phone call from her son, informing her that he was in the stairwell of their apartment building, being questioned by two police officers. When she responded to the area, the police officers asked her to confirm appellant's identity as her son, Tavian Ruffin.

At some point, Ms. Ruffin overheard the confirmation over the police radio that appellant was wanted on an open arrest warrant. When the officers informed appellant that he was under arrest, appellant became angry and "took off running." She saw the police officers chase appellant through the snow and run down a hill. She then saw a police officer overtop appellant, attempting to place him in handcuffs. She attributed the struggle to the slippery conditions and testified that appellant stated that he was not...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT