Nicholas Markowitz Kidnapper Makes Parole

Jesse Rugge To Be Released 13 Years After Murder

Friday, October 18, 2013
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A man convicted of kidnapping the 15-year-old whose murder inspired the 2007 movie Alpha Dog was cleared for release by California’s parole board on Tuesday.

State parole board spokesperson Bill Sessa said Jesse Rugge could be released as early as next week, according to the Associated Press. The prison will have five days to release Rugge, though no date or location was given. He had been serving his time at the California Institute for Men in Chino.

Thirteen years ago, Jesse Rugge assisted drug dealer and convicted murderer Jesse James Hollywood in the high profile kidnapping and slaying of Nicholas Markowitz at Lizard’s Mouth, a popular hiking location in the hills above Santa Barbara. Markowitz was killed because his half-brother owed Hollywood $1,200.

Rugge was sentenced to serve seven years to life behind bars for his role in the crime. Despite Governor Jerry Brown’s opposition, the Board of Parole Hearings stood by the decision to release Rugge, who was an exemplary prisoner, according to prison records.


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AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 2:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good for him, he gets a second chance at life.

1123inde (anonymous profile)
October 18, 2013 at 2:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Unfortunately 1123inde, Nicholas doesn't get a second chance.

formersbso (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2013 at 7:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What I want to know is that what makes this guy so special? Even the governor was against this and the BPT are appointed by him, so what happened?

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2013 at 11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This makes about as much sense as releasing Attias did.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2013 at 2:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, thank you.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2013 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Rugge = low-life convict.

whatsinsb (anonymous profile)
October 19, 2013 at 4:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@formersbso, Nicholas does not get a second chance... Very true, but Rugge has obviously paid for his role in this crime. Rugge did not pull the trigger... Why wasn't Markowit'z idiot older brother punished for putting the family in that situation, I think he's equally to blame!

1123inde (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 7:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I know most ppl on here wanted him in the electric chair, but I couldnt be more ecstatic after hearing this news. I have followed this case as close as possible and he certainly paid for his role in the crime (and then some) and absolutely deserved this. We can all fight over the "facts" of the case, but lets talk about this decision. I read through his entire parole hearing transcript and he was more than a model prisoner, he had a blemish free record for 13+ years. He has admitted his role in the crime, is deeply remorseful, and understands what his actions/inactions caused.

The Parole Board knows how to do their job, knows a con when they see one, and all voted to release him. Just because Susan Markowitz can put her face all over the place and apply massive pressure to the governor doesn't mean Jesse Rugge needs to be given a different set of rules. What everyone needs to remember is he was convicted of Kidnapping with Ransom, NOT Murder. He was acquitted of murder. So 13 years is plenty. How the jury found this kidnapping with ransom blows my mind, but thats all in the past now.

Being a convicted felon obviously blocks a lot of roads for him for here on out, but hopefully with his family and wife's support, he can still have a long successful life.

kerry121 (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 10:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, there's no electric chair in California, and a murder certainly resulted from the kidnapping Rugge participated in, regardless of the convolutions of the "justice" system that resulted in whatever he was actually convicted of.

I think he should spend a LOT more time in prison before he's eligible for parole. Letting him out now simply defies common sense.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 11:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I would also point out, kerry121, that Nicholas Markowitz was entitled to a "long, successful life" just as much as you feel Mr. Rugge is. You don't seem to understand that Nicholas was cheated of that life, thanks to the actions of Mr. Rugge and his cohorts.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 1 p.m. (Suggest removal)

LegendaryYeti--- Sentence called for 7 to life. He will have served 13 years and 2 months. Thats almost double the mandatory minimum.

Lets put it this way, does anyone feel this guy is a risk to society? Does anyone feel he will get out and start committing more crimes? His parole guidelines forbid him from drinking alcohol and using drugs so those were the 2 things that got him in trouble in the 1st place.

Lets just hope he can live a productive life... Good luck Jesse!

kerry121 (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 2:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

LegendaryYeti-- I understand that this situation ended in one of the worst crimes that could happen--the murder of a young man and I feel for Susan Markowitz and his whole family, but if Jesse Rugge didnt deserve his freedom, then the jury should of convicted him of murder. I know that Nick was the victim here and not Jesse, but there are rules and guidelines of his sentence, he followed them, and now he is getting a 2nd chance of life.

What are your feelings towards Pressley? He was convicted of 2nd degree murder but was released after what 4-5 years since he was on bail before and during his trial.

kerry121 (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 2:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

kerry121, I'm glad you acknowledge that Nicholas Markowitz was the victim in this entire stupid and tragic chain of events. Your posts suggest a different opinion on this point.

If Rugge's sentence was 7 to life, and he's served 13+ years so far, then I still don't have a problem with him staying in custody for a much longer period of time, because the crime he participated in warrants it. Just my opinion, and your mileage may vary. But if there wasn't a kidnapping, then there might not have been a murder.

Q: Do you feel that Susan Markowitz's efforts to keep Rugge in custody were a "con" the Parole Board needed to recognize, since [as you wrote] the Parole Board knows how to recognize a "con" when they see one?

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 2:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Maybe I wasn't clear enough. What I meant was that if Jesse was conning them just to get released, the board would of picked up on it and denied him once again.

I didn't want to bring this up earlier, but there is absolutely no evidence to this being a kidnapping for ransom. Pressley and JJH both were acquitted of this charge. I think 13 years is just and like I said hopefully he can live a productive life

When you defend the guilty, it does make it seem you have no sympathy towards the victim, so sorry if it seemed like I didn't always know Nick was the victim. I hope Susan Markowitz can live with the parole board decision and not let it destroy her again

kerry121 (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 3:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The purpose of the criminal justice system is to provide restitution to victims, not to 'punish' criminals. Since the victim is gone, the secondary role of the justice system is to protect society from dangerous criminals. So a lot of his release would be dependent on judgements based on whether he is remorseful and appears to be rehabilitated or reformed or whatever so that he can re-enter society. I don't know if any of us have enough details on what happened and what his situation is now to make a very good judgement on that.

I do know that MOST people go to prison and then BECOME criminals. They start out making innocent black market transactions and end up in jail, then once in jail they learn how to commit crimes from their inmates. When they are released they have very little opportunity, are desperate and then begin to use that knowledge to get ahead and find themselves relapsing into the criminal justice system. So keeping people in jail is not necessarily improving our future existence.

There is no reason to keep somebody in prison unless they are believed to be a danger to specific individuals or society as a whole. They cost taxpayers money and are not productive. By releasing Jesse on parole, they will be able to closely monitor his re-introduction into society. Jesse does not have the "right" to re-enter society because he helped take away Nicholas' rights forever, but that doesn't mean that it is necessary to keep him locked up forever either. Hopefully it is the right decision.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 3:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Fair enough, kerry121. We're both entitled to our opinions, and we don't have to agree. But I do feel that if there wasn't a kidnapping, then there might not have been a murder.

If they didn't kidnap Nicholas then maybe JJH and all the other sh*theads in his entourage would have gone after Nicholas's half-brother for the debt he owed. But I think Nicholas - innocent and in the wrong place at the wrong time - was an easier target for them, and also a way to get back at his half-brother.

And so it goes. And Susan Markowitz's nightmare just never goes away.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
October 21, 2013 at 4:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

loonpt- I obviously do not know Jesse personally, but reading through both parole transcripts it really seems like this guy is not only truly remorseful, but he is not likely to go back to prison. It seems that from the first day he was locked up, he knew that one day he would be getting out so he made sure every single decision and action he took didn't affect his release. Even the opposing attorney from the DA's office commented on how remarkable it was that he didnt have one single write up in 13 years. He got his GED, has taken many college courses, and has participated in countless support groups.

And lets face it, he isn't moving back to the projects, he is moving to Calabassas and from what I see on tv it is a very affluent area. I am sure his parents are well-off as well and he also has a wife. He has every single opportunity in place to stay on the straight and narrow. He has been drug and alcohol free for 13 years and the conditions of his parole means he must stay away from both.

Good luck Jesse

kerry121 (anonymous profile)
October 22, 2013 at 4:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

LegendaryYeti- You are right that we are both entitled to our opinions and I am glad we can have a reasonable and adult discussion. Some ppl are just full of hatred and just argue to argue.

I honestly do not believe they took Nick to get back at Ben. As you said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and reading through the trial testimony, as soon as he was thrown in the van, they were all like WTF are we going to do now. I think the only reason they didnt release Nick right then and there was because they beat him up and were scared of what Ben would do when he found out. So I think JJH held on to him due to fear of Ben, not revenge.

If there wasn't a kidnapping, then yes, there wouldnt of been a murder, but there were A LOT of "what ifs" in this case. Please don't jump down my throat with this comment, but I am sure that even at one point, Nick thought to himself that if he wasn't smoking pot and taking pills, that he wouldnt of even been walking down down the street that day. But that is no excuse or reason to be murdered for doing those things. I believe that he felt his penance for doing those things was to stay there till the end, eventhough he could of escaped, and try to help make things right between Ben and JJH. We only wish he got the heck out of there when he could.

kerry121 (anonymous profile)
October 22, 2013 at 4:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

There are surely no easy answers here. Jesse truly is remorseful and always will be.And he will certainly never go back to prison. If he had not been paroled and had stayed there forever, nothing would ever bring that boy back or alleviate his family's pain. Those who have followed this case closely (with open minds) and those who know Jesse personally know that while in prison he did absolutely everything in his power to grow and to become a responsible adult. Everything. As mentioned above, Jesse didn't have a single negative mark on his record of any kind in all that time. He went in a scared, misguided, confused kid and has come out an adult. His high profile parole will make forging a normal life a challenge for quite a while, which he knows. I hope that Mrs. Markowitz finds a level of peace that keeping Jesse incarcerated for any length of time couldn't have provided her. He will spend every day for the rest of his life aware of his past but will also continue to move in a positive direction. He expects it of himself as much as his extended family expects it of him. There was no celebration over his release, though he was welcomed with relief and open arms. Given that there is a parole system and that those who are considered for parole are held to a high standard, Jesse deserves to be a free man today ... and to prove for the rest of his life that the parole board's decision was the right one. He will do just that.

katren (anonymous profile)
October 22, 2013 at 10:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Some of the above is rather disturbingly reminiscent of the "fangirl syndrome" that's been reported as having arisen around the supposed "plight" of the accused Boston Marathon bomber:

zappa (anonymous profile)
October 23, 2013 at 9:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

lol, zappa, that is ridiculous.

and kerry, thanks for the explanation, that sounds reasonable.

I think the people who should be in jail are politicians and law enforcement who put people in jail for growing, possessing and selling cannabis. That would be far better for society.

Ben owed Hollywood a substantial sum of money. In most other market transactions, there would be a contract of the sale and Hollywood would be able to go to authorities or go to a court and hold Ben accountable for the money he owed. But the legal system does not oblige those who sell cannabis, so buyers and sellers of cannabis are forced to settle their disputes over property and currency either by taking a loss or with violence. So it turns out Hollywood was merely protecting his property and was going after Ben, not Ben's younger brother, and that was all just a big mistake and horrible misunderstanding. After was all said and done, if they let him go then they were endangering themselves. Then after holding onto him for some time finally they for some reason believed that they would be better off killing the poor kid than letting him go and letting him talk to either his older brother or authorities. What an awful situation. And in fact, that story line would probably have made for a more compelling film..

Now I'm certainly not defending their actions in killing Ben's younger brother, but you can certainly see how a situation that was initially caused by our drug laws turned into something where they felt that to defend themselves from harm they had to kill an innocent 15 year old kid. Horrible.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
October 23, 2013 at 3:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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