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January 31, 2018

Ruffin gets 15-year sentence for restaurant robbery

Roderick O. Ruffin Jr. pleaded guilty to two charges stemming from his robbery of The Great Wall restaurant in Bealeton. The prosecution dropped four other counts.
We think it’s appropriate. He’s going to serve 15 years in prison and has 50 years hanging over his head. That’s significant.
— Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey E. Cook
Ruffin Robbery Case
• What: Robbery of The Great Wall Chinese restaurant in the Bealeton Village shopping center on Sept. 5, 2015.

• Victim: Daou Ou Chen, 45, restaurant owner.

• Defendant: Roderic Odyseuss Ruffin Jr., 27, of Chesapeake.

• Conviction: Mr. Ruffin Wednesday, Jan. 31, pleaded guilty to armed robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

• Sentence: 50 years, with 35 years suspended; imposed by the judge Wednesday, Jan. 31.

• Defense attorneys: Deputy Public Defender Kevin J. Gerrity and Assistant Public Defender Catherine Carre.

• Prosecutor: Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey E. Cook.

• Judge: Herman A. Whisenant Jr.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A Chesapeake man Wednesday morning pleaded guilty to two felonies related to the September 2015 armed robbery of a Chinese restaurant in Bealeton.

Roderic O. Ruffin Jr. entered “Alford pleas” during a 10-minute hearing in Fauquier County Circuit Court. Under such a plea, the defendant asserts innocence but acknowledges enough evidence to support a conviction. 

Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. sentenced Mr. Ruffin to 50 years in prison, with 35 years suspended.

He received 12 years for armed robbery and three years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The armed robbery charge carries a penalty of five years to life in prison.

During the robbery of The Great Wall, Mr. Ruffin, 27, repeatedly stuck restaurant owner Daou Ou Chen in the head with a Winchester rifle.

Wearing a mask and a hat, Mr. Ruffin ran from the restaurant through its back door to a black sedan, where his now-estranged girlfriend waited.

Blood streaming from deep gashes to his head, Mr. Chen followed Mr. Ruffin, firing five shots with his handgun as the robber fled.

Mr. Ruffin, whose extensive criminal record includes a robbery conviction, on Wednesday declined a chance to address the court moments before his sentencing.

Mr. Chen, who attended the hearing, believes Mr. Ruffin should serve more than 20 years.

“I feel it’s quite light,” the restaurant owner said, through an interpreter, of the 15-year sentence. “When this happened, the whole county was shaken” by the robbery of his and other area businesses.

Two-and-a-half years after the incident, he still has memory and concentration problems, Mr. Chen said.

The judge also ordered Mr. Ruffin to make $2,196 in restitution to Mr. Chen for medical expenses and damage to the restaurant.

James Ruffin, the defendant’s grandfather, also attended Wednesday’s hearing.

“A lot of stuff I didn’t agree with,” said James Ruffin, 71, a retired heavy equipment operator who lives in Midland. “That’s the way the system goes.”

“We think it’s appropriate,” Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamey E. Cook, who prosecuted the case, said of the sentence. “He’s going to serve 15 years in prison and has 50 years hanging over his head,” should Mr. Ruffin violate probation after completing his sentence. “That’s significant.”

Deputy Public Defender Kevin J. Gerrity — Mr. Ruffin’s third lawyer to handle the case — declined to comment.

The Ruffin case has a long and complicated history.

Mr. Ruffin faced six felony charges — five related to the Chinese restaurant crime and a weapon count that figured into the robbery case.

As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution dropped four of the six charges.

Mr. Ruffin’s guilty plea cancelled three jury trials set in February to hear the matter.

He originally wanted to take his case to a circuit court jury.

But, the day before his Oct. 25, 2016, trial, Mr. Ruffin decided to plead guilty to fewer charges. Mr. Ruffin said he couldn’t contact witnesses who would have testified to his innocence.

On Oct. 26, 2016, he entered his first “Alford” plea to armed robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

His original defense attorney, T. Brooke Howard II of Warrenton, negotiated the plea deal with Ms. Cook.

Judge Whisenant had scheduled sentencing for last March 20. But by then, Mr. Ruffin — apparently dissatisfied with the plea and Mr. Howard — had hired another attorney to represent him.

Three days before sentencing, Mr. Ruffin’s new lawyer, Mark D. Henshaw of Manassas, filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea, which would enable his client to get a jury trial.

After an 84-minute hearing last April 27, Judge Whisenant granted that motion.

Judges rarely allow defendants to withdraw guilty pleas.

Mr. Henshaw argued that Mr. Ruffin should get a jury trial because he could have mounted a “reasonable defense” and because he entered the guilty plea “unadvisedly,” based on erroneous sentencing information provided by Mr. Howard.

Judge Whisenant apparently agreed.

In November, the court granted Mr. Henshaw’s request to withdraw as Mr. Ruffin’s attorney. Around that time, Mr. Gerrity’s office took over the case.

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