Breaking News: At the very last minute, as the jury is deliberating on charges against Sandra Grazzini-Rucki for felony parental deprivation, Assistant Dakota County Attorney Kathryn Keena drops her motion to impose an aggravated sentence against Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, admitting the charges do not meet the guidelines.
An aggravated sentence is usually reserved for the most heinous crimes. Keena has not given a public statement but previously wrote a notice to the court that she was seeking an aggravated sentence because it was “cruel” to deprive David Rucki of his two daughters, and that he has “suffered extreme emotional pain beyond what is normal for this crime”.
This article will take a closer look at Keena’s motion, and offer additional information on the charges against Sandra.
Dakota County Judicial Center
Was David Rucki “Deprived” of his Daughters?
Or Did the Girls Run Away For Safety Reasons?
Keena argued that it was “cruel” to deprive David Rucki of his two daughters, and an aggravated sentence was warranted. Let’s take a closer look at the alleged “cruelty” and charges that Sandra “deprived” David of his two daughters.
Sandra has been charged felony parental deprivation for her role in the disappearance of her two teenage daughters. Sandra is arguing the “affirmative defense” meaning her actions were taken to protect her daughters from an unsafe environment, where they faced imminent physical or sexual harm.
Judge David L Knutson
It is important to note that when the Rucki girls ran away, their father, David, did not have custody, their mother, Sandra did not have custody of the children. Judge Knutson took custody away from both parents (Sept. 2012) and placed the children in the temporary care of their aunt, and issued a no contact order against both parents, who could now only communicate to their children through the court-appointed reunification therapist, Dr. Gilbertson. All of the Rucki children struggled to reunite with David, and showed a fear of him, and reported allegations of abuse. Dr. Gilbertson did not address the children’s fear and resulting emotional and behavioral symptoms; the focus on therapy was forcing reunification with David. Under these conditions, David won sole custody of the children in November 2013.When awarded custody of the children, David was on probation for a domestic violence charge with an OFP violation.
Dr. James Gilbertson, PhD
In April 2013, the two teenage Rucki sisters ran away after Judge Knuston placed them in the temporary custody of paternal aunt, Tammy Love, where they would live under their father’s influence. The Girls made allegations they were being abused by their father, and were afraid for their lives. Before running away, the Girls made multiple attempts to seek help, and were denied the protection they deserved by Judge Knutson, and the family court system.
Laura Miles wrote in her report to the Court dated 6/3/2013 that she spoke to Michelle Roberts, police officer with Lakeville P.D. and ,”Ms. Roberts indicated that at this time, they have an open investigation regarding S and G, but they are considered to be “runaways” at this point. Ms. Roberts states that since they “left of their own free will”, “there is not much to be done as far as active efforts.”
The evidence is clear in showing that if the Rucki girls wanted to return to their father, David, they would have done so. The Rucki girls had ample opportunity to make contact with David if that was what they wanted. The girls were found at a therapeutic horse ranch in November 2015. Reports state that the girls both had access to cell phones, computers, had access to a car yet never made any attempt to contact David and never made any effort to return to his home. The girls used their legal names, and never made any attempt to conceal their identity; they lived in the open. The girls had also made contact with other adults, made friends with other teenagers, who they could have turned to for help, or asked for assistance in returning back to their father. They never made any of these gestures and said they were afraid of their father and not ready to see him.
The Girls chose to stay at the Ranch, and had adjusted well to their new life. They considered Gina Dahlen to be a “second mother”.
After being found, the Girls continued to raise allegations of abuse, and begged to be in foster care rather than return to father David. The social worker assigned to the Rucki girls believed the abuse allegations, and petitioned the Court to keep the girls in foster care, and to allow only supervised visits with David until it was determined unsupervised visits were safe. The Girls spoke personally to Judge Michael Mayer, who assigned to their case, begging him for help. Judge Mayer refused to listen and told the Girls that if they ran away again, he would send the police to pursue them. Judge Mayer then returned the Girls to the custody of David. The Girl were then set to California, escorted by a security guard, to reunification therapy.
“Severe Emotional Pain” is
NOT an Aggravating Circumstance
Keena said David has “suffered extreme emotional pain beyond what is normal for this crime”and an aggravated sentence is warranted.
To compare Sandra to a terrorist or a drug dealer, who would qualify for an aggravated sentence, is ridiculous. Keena should have been aware in November 2015, when filing the motion to the court, that an aggravated sentence was not applicable. An aggravated sentence is requested in special circumstances where the nature of the crime or the the impact the crime has had on the victim is especially severe. The prosecuting attorney may then ask for an aggravated sentence, meaning the sentence imposed goes above the usual guidelines. “Emotional pain” is NOT a circumstance that qualifies for an aggravated sentence under Minnesota law.
Further, Sandra is not a danger to anyone. She has no prior criminal history. In her job as a flight attendant, Sandra works with the public, and has consistently demonstrated safe, and appropriate behavior when interacting with others. Sandra was once the primary caregiver to her children. By all accounts, she had a close, loving relationship with her children until being forcibly separated by an unjust court order imposed by Judge David Knutson. To ask for an aggravated sentence against Sandra is extreme.
David Rucki Making Jokes in a Public Statement
Regarding the Return of his Daughters
David Rucki statement 4/14/2106
In a Facebook post dated April 14, 2016 – dated just days before the anniversary the Rucki girls ran away, on April 19, 2013, David writes about his gratitude to all those who supported him while his daughters were missing. The post was written on the page of Dr. Rebecca Bailey of Transitioning Families, who facilitated the reunification between David and his daughters.
A black and white picture accompanies the post, in it David Rucki poses in a Grouch Marx style costume with thick, bushy eyebrows, thick black glasses and a comical extra large fake nose.
In between David’s statements about how he has struggled with the disappearance of his daughters, are several jokes (Grouch Marx was a comedian, afterall ??) ….
To his friend, Tony Canney, David promises to buy a round of drinks the next time they go out, “I’m not going to lie to you I put this guy threw the ringer listening to my crap, I guess I will be buying this weekend!”
To attorney, Lisa Elliott, David jokes about the turmoil of ongoing litigation,”Lisa Elliot and her staff at Elliot Law, when I walked into her office 5 years ago I told her that “This will be the craziest case she will ever have to deal with” she smirked at me and said ” I’ve seen it all” If you asked her today I know she would say ” This case has re wrote the book on crazy!”
David jokes about his experience with the horses at Transitioning Families,”I love you guys, even though because of you I no longer have a fondness towards miniature horses! “Ouch!”
Are these the words of someone experiencing severe and debilitating emotional pain?
Keena brought the motion for an aggravated sentence to make Sandra’s case appear more severe, and to impose a more harsh sentence than the law allows. Keena kept up this charade for 8 months, allowing the charges to be widely circulated in the media, knowing this case did not meet the guidelines. Only at the last possible minute did Keena rescind her motion.
The merits of the Grazzini-Rucki case, and criminal charges against Sandra, continue to be debated. Perhaps this is why Keena held the motion for aggravated sentencing against Sandra for 8 long months, knowing it would not apply…. to manipulate the public perception of the case, and of Sandra.
Jury deliberations have begun, and will continue tomorrow.
Jury Selection Proves Difficult in Rucki Case by Michael Volpe
2015 MN Statutes: 244.10 SENTENCING HEARING; DEVIATION FROM GUIDELINES