Former Sheriff’s sergeant to serve 5 years in prison for domestic violence

Judge says Richard Ramirez showed no remorse for his crimes and continues to claim he is the victim of a conspiracy

TULARE COUNTY – A former sergeant with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department will spend at least three years in state prison for domestic violence and witness intimidation of three victims.

On July 20, Superior Court Judge Nathan Leedy sentenced former Sheriff’s sergeant Richard Ramirez, 47, to five years and eight months in prison. On May 12, a jury convicted Ramirez of two misdemeanor counts of battery against his ex-wife in fall 2008; felony counts of dissuading a witness and a victim, corporal injury, stalking as well as misdemeanor counts of battery, harassment and disobeying a court order against his ex-girlfriend between May 2018 and July 2019; and a felony count of dissuading a witness against the ex-girlfriend’s daughter in May 2019.

Appearing in a jumpsuit with the words Kings County Jail, where the former deputy was held for his own protection, Ramirez not only heard reasons for the sentencing laid out by the judge but also from his victims. 

Richard Ramirez
47 years old

The victims’ statements reinforced the jury’s deduction of Ramirez as an habitual abuser repeating a pattern of violence against those closest to him. A victim’s advocate read statements by Ramirez’s ex-wife and her daughter who said they lived in fear. The daughter said Ramirez was aggressive and strict but was far more violent with her mother than he ever was with here. She stated one of her most vivid memories from childhood was watching Ramirez drag her mother by the back of her neck into their room. 

“When someone raises their voice it makes me think something horrible is coming next,” she stated.

She went on to ask the judge for the maximum sentence of six years and four months in state prison and to require Ramirez to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

“He’s not sorry. He’s just sorry he got caught,” she wrote.

On several occasions, she and her mother would sleep somewhere in her car and then “wash up” for school and work in a Denny’s bathroom the next morning. Her mother said she had considered suicide but was afraid of what would happen to her daughter if she did. Ramirez’s ex-wife said she had always dreamed of being the mom who ran the PTA or volunteered at school and community functions but Ramirez didn’t allow her to do those things.

“Richard stole that from me,” she said.

The mother said she filed numerous reports with the Visalia Police Department but was laughed at, mocked and ridiculed for coming forward. “They did nothing and allowed this monster to roam free.”

“Are they protecting him or are they protecting themselves,” she said.

The mother said she has lived with fear, anxiety and depression ever since her decision to leave Ramirez.

“After divorcing him, I knew it would happen again to someone else,” she wrote. “I expected to hear his name on the news for killing a significant other. You have the power to save his next victim.”

The mother and daughter statements were much harsher than those of Jennifer Hillan, Ramirez’s ex-girlfriend who pushed for the investigation into his actions which inspired the others to come forward. Hillan chose to read her statement herself and did so while sitting just a few feet from Ramirez and looking at him the entire time. While they were in court discussing the bad times, Hillan said she and Ramirez did have good times and, in some cases, great times.

“You know what happened, you know me and you know I never wished any harm on you,” she said. “I prayed for you. I wished you had a better life.”

The other victim in the case is Hillan’s daughter, who Hillan said could not come to court today because she was too upset. Ramirez threatened her not to talk to police after witnessing him beat Hillan unconscious, according to civil lawsuit her mother filed against Ramirez in March and amended in May after his conviction in the criminal case.

The federal lawsuit also names Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department for allegedly covering for the deputy’s actions, suppressing reports and promoting a culture of looking the other way. She said Ramirez was known as “Teflon Rich” because he felt he was above the law and protected by his fellow officers. Hillan and Ramirez began dating in 2011 and were dating on and off until late 2018. Each time Hillan threatened to leave, Ramirez threatened a murder-suicide in efforts to keep Hillan in the relationship, according to court documents. In May 2018, Ramirez walked into Hillan’s home while on duty and in uniform and beat her in front of her daughter before knocking her unconscious. When she regained consciousness, Ramirez allegedly pulled out his gun, pointed it to his chest and said, “I’m done, it’s over” before walking outside and discharging the weapon. Fearing he had shot himself, Hillan immediately ran outside to find Ramirez laughing and said, “You thought I killed myself.”

The filing states, “[Hillan] felt that she could not tell anyone what happened, especially law enforcement, because all previous reports had failed to elicit any disciplinary action, even verbal censure, against Ramirez, and had, instead, been relayed to Ramirez, who retaliated against [Hillan] by further assaults.”

Hillan told Ramirez she hoped he would use the time in prison to reflect on the family and friends he has and to think about the kind of man he wants to be.

“I pray for the day when you can love, be loyal and be a good man,” Hillan said. “Don’t harm the people you love and you can have a great life. I hope you find the humility to change.”

Final, final arguments

Ramirez’s attorney Victor Perez argued the media had influence Probation’s decision by listing a specific sentencing term which had not been discussed in court. Perez also argued the more than five-year sentence for domestic violence and witness intimidation charges was “unusual” and didn’t seem to take into account an exemplary 23-year career in law enforcement. He said Ramirez was nominated and awarded Officer of the Year five times, was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor and was an example of a model officer throughout the state.

“You have robbed him of his career and deterred him from any future conduct,” Perez said. “He will comply with probation.”

He said the victim’s injuries did not rise to the level of “great bodily harm” and said Ramirez shared in the blame with the victims. He called the relationships “caustic and sick” and said he was also stalked and harassed. He called on the judge to consider a mitigated sentence of probation instead of a prison sentence.

Deputy district attorney Katrina Brownson reminded the court Ramirez’s crimes were not an isolated incidence but a pattern of abuse. There were three victims in the case and the jury found Ramirez guilty of every count, even though two of the charges were reduced.

“The victims in this case did not ask for this to happen to them,” she said. “The fact they stayed doesn’t mean they caused this or wanted this.”

Brownson also pointed out Ramirez showed no remorse for his actions and went so far as to say they never happened. In his interview with Probation, Brownson said Ramirez continued to claim all of the charges were part of a conspiracy against him.

“His 23 years in law enforcement does not mean anything to the people,” Brownson said. “We believe it is appropriate the sentencing is state prison.”

Judge Nathan Leedy agreed with Probation’s recommendation to for a middle term sentence of five years and eight months. The judge said he didn’t feel Ramirez was a candidate for probation because he has already violated a court order and that an aggravated prison term was also not approporiate. The judge said Ramirez was ordered to stay away from a residence where some of his guns were stored but went there anyway.

“His liberty hinged on compliance with this simple order and he just disregarded it,” Judge Leedy said. “I don’t see him going through the steps of probation at this point.”

Leedy said Ramirez exploited his position of authority to maintain control in his relationships and to prevent his misconduct from coming to light. He said Ramirez was convicted on all crimes beyond a reasonable doubt and that no evidence was presented at the trial to support any claims of conspiracy or that the victims had done anything to illicit his violent actions.

“No doubt these relationships were complicated but I haven’t heard anything to indicate any victims did anything to aggravate or provoke,” Leedy said.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Leedy authorized a 10-year protective order barring Ramirez from any contact with any of the victims and prohibiting the former deputy from possessing any firearms or ammunition.

“Mr. Ramirez did a lot of good in his life, which is only indicative that people are complicated,” Judge Leedy said.

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