Footprints in the Snow or Wild Goose Chase? Did ABC 20/20 Edit Audio Recordings to Suppress Evidence of Abuse in the Grazzini-Rucki Case? Pt. 2

Did ABC 20/20 edit audio recordings of David Rucki verbally abusing his young son, to portray David in a more sympathetic light? And what message does their reporting send to abuse victims, to child abuse victims?

Part One of this Series: http://wp.me/p7FXmj-2F

Attacking Zone: Clues in the Hockey References?

The next scene shows a lone David, standing in the snow, looking towards his house.

Vargas says, “He left this message after finding out his son, Nico, dropped out of hockey, his favorite long time sport.” The message from David says, “Do yourself a favor, get your ass back in hockey!”

ABC 20/20 and Vargas had obviously listened to the voicemail messages, a transcript of the messages was also available. Vargas implied that something was wrong for Nico to drop out of “his favorite long time sport.” The truth is that Nico wasn’t all that interested in hockey, and wanted to pursue acting.

David wanted Nico to continue with hockey, and hated the thought of his son becoming an actor. One voicemail David left to Nico says, “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life. You’ve got nothing other than school and sports. You can have acting, you can do all that shit, but the bottom line is Nico, you fuck this up, you never get it back.” recorded voice mail messages

Why was David so intent on having Nico participate in hockey. In my **opinion** there are two reasons. 1) David was serving as President to the local hockey association and needed to have his own children playing hockey in order to be eligible for the position. 2) David enjoyed the social aspects of hanging out at the hockey rink, drinking, and having fun. If his children were not enrolled in hockey, he would not have access to that social group.

In July 2011, David resigned from his position as President of the hockey association for “personal reasons”.  Controversy followed – there was talk that David was mismanaging the finances and abusing his position as President. In the same month that David resigned three other Board members resigned, including David’s best friend and his wife, who also served on the Board. Another Board member was removed for his role in the controversy.

Locals discuss the controversy regarding the hockey association, and David’s role in it, at this discussion board: http://www.ushsho.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=515265&sid=10e573ea5427f01484d303ab387bafe9

In my **opinion** it does not make sense that on one hand David is claiming that he is being alienated from his children, and yet his focus in the voicemails is only about hockey. You do not hear David say things like ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’ or ‘I can’t wait to see you again’ or even asking his son how he is doing. Instead you hear threats, shaming, guilt, and coercion – which are all tactics abusers use to gain power and control over victims.

And then to have David pressure Nico to participate in hockey also does not make sense. If Nico were to join hockey he’d spend most of his time practicing and playing games – which would taken even more time away from spending time with his father, David. Why would David encourage Nico to spend LESS time with him??

What Voicemail Transcripts Submitted in Court as Evidence Reveal

The short excerpts played on “Footprints” in the snow omitted 99% of the entire recordings. The viewers did not get to hear much of anything. Supplemented by the heavy editing was Vargas pushing her own narrative, almost as if she was drowning out the rest of the voicemail messages from being heard.

Elizabeth Vargas, journalist and anchor, ABC 20/20

Elizabeth Vargas, journalist and anchor, ABC 20/20

Vargas also failed to ask Nico about the voicemail messages because she was focused on questioning Nico about whether his mother put him up to inventing abuse allegations. Vargas must have heard the voicemail messages but she does not question Nico about them, and how it made him feel? Why?

These same voice mail messages, and others, were submitted to the family court, presided by Judge David Knutson,  in 2011 as evidence. The evidence included audio recordings, and included a written transcript of the messages as well. The voice mail messages were used to confirm that abuse was occurring, and that David’s behavior posed a danger to the children. The messages were just one piece of a much larger body of evidence suggesting abuse had occurred. Judge Knutson dismissed ALL credible evidence of abuse, without merit or legal justification.

The message Vargas refers to is titled “Message Six” and begins with, “If you have the balls to listen to this message, you’re going to find out that you’re going to regret every stupid decision you have made this summer listening to your mother…” David goes on to berate Nico, make negative and insulting comments about Sandra and uses guilt and shame tactics to manipulate Nico to do what he (David) wants.

The same message ends with this statement from David, “Your mother is holding me out with the court. There’s nothing I can do until I get through the court. Do yourself a favor and get your ass back into hockey. Don’t screw this up for yourself. You’ll regret it your whole life. And you’re going to regret it when you find out that it was your mother who lied to you.”’

For more info about the voicemail messages, plz read: Rucki Enraged: Voicemail Transcripts Reveal Threats, Emotional Abuse Against Son

In my **opinion**, if you carefully listen to what David is saying in his voicemail messages – he is telling Nico that once he gets through the court, he will have access to him, he will deal with Nico’s refusal to comply. David makes statements in his voicemail recordings that imply threats, that imply punishment and state that the only way to please his father is to do what he wants.

Statements tainclude:

I’m waiting, um, I’m still your dad, and that isn’t going to change, and we will be together soon. And I’m basically going to tell you I’m going to hold you accountable and you will have to deal with me because, you know, the way you’re treating me is wrong.

Nico, it’s your dad, still wondering why you are not going to captain’s practice. Why are you dropping out of hockey? You’re not hurting me. You’re going to regret it for the rest of your g—d damn f—ing life and I’m trying to prevent that.

What the f– is wrong with you? You know what? You f– don’t understand.

I’m just calling to remind you that you will regret this your whole life by not following through with what you started. Secondly, I am your father and I guarantee, Nico, that we will be talking soon. And when we talk, you’re going to be held accountable for how you’re acting. And I wil not let this fly. I am your father. And you will respect me.

Um, you know, I wish you would pull your head out your a– and you’d call me back and talk because you need to get some stabilization in you, because what you’re doing is self-destructive and it’s not good, it’s not healthy. A

I’m waiting, um, I’m still your dad, and that isn’t going to change, and we will be together soon. And I’m basically going to tell you I’m going to hold you accountable and you will have to deal with me because, you know, the way you’re treating me is wrong.

Nico, it’s your dad, still wondering why you are not going to captain’s practice. Why are you dropping out of hockey? You’re not hurting me. You’re going to regret it for the rest of your g—d damn f—ing life and I’m trying to prevent that.

What the f– is wrong with you? You know what? You f– don’t understand.

I’m just calling to remind you that you will regret this your whole life by not following through with what you started. Secondly, I am your father and I guarantee, Nico, that we will be talking soon. And when we talk, you’re going to be held accountable for how you’re acting. And I wil not let this fly. I am your father. And you will respect me.

Um, you know, I wish you would pull your head out your a– and you’d call me back and talk because you need to get some stabilization in you, because what you’re doing is self-destructive and it’s not good, it’s not healthy. And you know, eventually, we will be together here talking soon. Um, so you can run and hide all you want, but the sooner you confront this, the better off you’ll be.

Here’s one thing you need to think about: You’ve got one shot at life. One. And if you’re not guided properly, Nico, you will piss that away because you’re 15 years old and you don’t know your head from your a–. You’ve got a lot to learn in life. You make a mistake now, you’ll never get it back. Because you are being emotional like your mother, you will never get it back. I’m tired of all this crap I’ve been put through…

This is very extreme language, that is NOT an appropriate way to communicate to a child. It is abusive.

Why did ABC 20/20 and Elizabeth Vargas suppress these voicemail recordings? The viewers should have been allowed to hear for themselves, and come to their own conclusions. Instead the viewers were given a nicely packaged story concocted by ABC 20/20, and dramatically narrated by Vargas. The irony in all of this, is that these invented stories are no different than the alienation that Sandra is accused of.

“When someone hears about child abuse, it’s easy to assume the abuse is physical, but child abuse can also come in the emotional form. Child emotional abuse includes but isn’t limited to verbal assaults, constant belittling, making threats, ignoring the child, providing no love and exposing the child to constant family conflict.” Source: Moody Air Force Base. http://media.defense.gov

Fact or Pigeon?

The next scene from  “Footprints in the Snow” shows a courtroom and Vargas delves into a narrative of how Judge David Knutson appointed therapist to try to facilitate a relationship between David Rucki and his children.

A picture of a smiling David composed next to an order for reunification therapy, the courts suggesting Moxie, fills the screen. The court appoints an advocate, and special therapists to facilitate a relationship with their father, “the children say they don’t want one”.

Only now does Vargas mention abuse – but note the context she uses. “Nico takes to facebook, he writes my dad is a bad person, he abusive, verbally and physically…”

Didn’t the producers at ABC 20/20 and Vargas overhear some of the verbal abuse in the voicemail messages? Yet they failed to ask David about that. And failed to draw the connection between what Nico reported and what actually happened – that these recordings were in David’s own words!

Vargas goes to on talk about abuse of the runaway Rucki sisters in this way, “Gianna and Samantha make audio recordings to support what their mother says…”

Samantha’s recording is obviously emotional, her voice is choked with tears as she recounts physical abuse at the hands of her father. Vargas seems unsympathetic. 

Vargas goes on to report that Judge David Knutson found there is no proof of abuse, and the expert he appointed found “evidence of parental alienation”.  Judge Knutson decides that Sandra is the problem, and takes drastic measures.

Judge David L Knutson

Judge David L Knutson

The message being sent to victims of domestic violence, and child abuse, by ABC 20/20 and Vargas is harmful – it says if you disclose abuse, you will not be believed. Even worse, it casts suspicion on the children who bravely come forward – accusing the child victim that something is wrong with them, that they are “brainwashed”. All of this without investigation. Or if there is a report or investigation, claims of abuse are dismissed.

Abuse involves a pattern of threatening and harmful behavior inflicted on another person. When the relationship ends, the abusive behavior does not merely go away but continues in another form. There is also a term called Domestic Violence by Proxy which means that when an abusive partner no longer has access to a victim, he will try to regain control by using the children as a weapon. DV by Proxy describes abusive behavior that continues post separation – controlling behavior, stalking, harassment, legal abuse, turning a child against a parent – are all ways children are used by an abusive ex partner to regain control or inflict harm on a former partner. When court professionals fail to recognize the abuse, and how it manifests after separation, their actions and court rulings result in further harm to abuse victims, and their children. Misinformation about abuse, in turn, affects every level of society, including media outlets because there is a common presumption that judges never do wrong, that courts are always right. This is difficult for a victim of abuse to overcome; and it prevents our community from understanding abuse, and its effects, in a way that could promote ending the cycle of violence, and could assist in offering better protections to victims. 

Footprints on My Heart

An emotional Sandra, on the verge of tears, tells Vargas, “I’ve never done anything but be there for my children… my children are my life.

If anything positive is to come out of “Footprints in the Snow” I hope it is this… that wherever Sandra’s children are now, that they remember the memories shown in the home movies where mom is loving on them, and they are enjoying time spent together.

I hope her children know what Sandra has said, that the hurt and lies and forcible separation will not erase this truth: “my children are my life.” 

I hope the Rucki children know how much they are deeply loved by a mother who grieves the loss of them everyday, and who has never stopped fighting to protect them from harm and be involved in their lives. 

Because that is what I saw, as a viewer, watching “Footprints in the Snow”. And the outrage of this story is that a mother’s love and efforts to protect her children, resulted in punishment and forcible separation from those very children.

 

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4 thoughts on “Footprints in the Snow or Wild Goose Chase? Did ABC 20/20 Edit Audio Recordings to Suppress Evidence of Abuse in the Grazzini-Rucki Case? Pt. 2

  1. The system does not care. Im going through the same thing in Fl. I am treated worse than some crackhead mother. Yet i have never been in trouble and have raised my children alone while working full time. They have never been abused in my care and wanted for nothing. Yet their father with a history of violence, arrest , baker acts and injuctions is hand the children and im left with barely seeing them. Might i add he wasnt around for 5 yrs and claim thats my fault. Yet he moved out of state and also spent 2 yrs in jail. He owes 80,000.00 in child support. Yet the judge refuses to hear or see any evidence from our side. The system is hurting the children just as much as the abuser. And they to should be held accountable

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  2. Pingback: Footprints in the Snow or Wild Goose Chase? Did ABC 20/20 Edit Audio Recordings to Suppress Evidence of Abuse in the Grazzini-Rucki Case? Pt. 2 | Sharon4anderson's Weblog

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