Appellate Briefs Reveal More Shocking Behavior in Rucki Case

** BREAKING NEWS ** From Michael Volpe and PPJ Gazette reporting on the appellate cases of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and Dede Evavold

Briefs Reveal More Shocking Behavior in Rucki Case.

“In separate response briefs to pro se attorneys, the Dakota County Prosecutor’s Office has acknowledged jury tampering, misdirected an allegation of witness tampering, and refused to respond to address all allegations of judicial misconduct in the Rucki case.

The briefs from Dakota County Prosecutor James Backstrom were in response to briefs filed by Dede Evavold and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, both representing themselves.

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom

 

Evavold has been representing herself after the state ruled her too well off to receive an attorney while Grazzini-Rucki was represented but was so disgusted by her attorney’s brief that she filed one on her own.

Her attorney, Steven Russett, who was provided by the Minnesota Appellate Public Defender’s Office, did not respond to an email and voicemail for comment.

In the most startling admission, the prosecutors acknowledge- responding to Grazzini-Rucki- that a reporter approached the jury while they were in a common area during a lunch break and asked if any wanted to be interviewed when the trial ended.

The reporter’s name is Laura Adelmann, who works for the Sun Current, the hometown newspaper of Lakeville, Minnesota, where the Rucki’s live. “There was one occasion during trial in which it was it was reported to Judge Asphaug that a reporter (I.E. Laura Adelmann) had approached the jurors while they were eating in the common area of the courthouse and asked if she could interview them after the trial was over.” Backstrom’s brief stated.

 This incident occurred on Friday July 18, 2016, while the trial was ongoing, and on Monday July 21, 2016, Judge Asphaug issued this statement to the court gallery.

I also received information that a member of the press approached our jurors last week and asked if jurors would be willing to speak after the trial. It is- I am ordering that you may not approach the jurors in the common area of the courthouse. It is- it has a chilling effect. It concerns jurors don’t do it.” An email to Adelmann was left unreturned. A voicemail to her editor, Tad Johnson, was also left unreturned.

Judge Karen Asphaug

Though the trial was covered internationally there was not one story which referred to Asphaug’s statement while the trial was ongoing.

Emails to Karen Zamora and Brandon Stahl, who each covered parts of the trial for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, were left unreturned.

An email to Michael Brodkorb, who has boasted that he covered each day of the trial, was also left unreturned.

Emails to 20/20 host, Elizabeth Vargas, and her two producers, Beth Mullin and Sean Dooley, were also left unreturned; 20/20 covered parts of the trial though it’s not clear if they were there that day.

Beau Berentson said “Our office does not conduct legal research,” in an email.

But when asked if an investigation had been started or if anyone had been disciplined for allowing press to get so close to the jury- a major break in protocol according to everyone this reporter spoke with- Berentson did not respond.

While lawyers who spoke with this reporter said it was unprecedented that press would ever get so close to a jury during trial, they were split on its significance.

Michael McCray, a United States Department of Agriculture whistleblower and lawyer, said he believed that such an interaction would cause all sorts of thoughts to enter a jury’s head “not one will be about the merits of the case.”

Lee Dryer is a Nashville attorney and part-time judge.

No trial is perfect,” Dryer said, but was less concerned since nothing about the case was discussed.

Dryer said he was more concerned with an allegation of witness tampering; Samantha Rucki, Grazzini-Rucki’s daughter who ran away, responded to Kelli Coughlin a Lakeville Police Department Detective, who asked her if she was at a police interview conducted approximately a month before her mother’s trial.

This police interview occurred approximately a month prior to her mother’s trial on June 30, 2016.

They (her father and his sister) basically said I have to (go to the interview) and I have to be here and I have to recant everything I said and it’s going and that’s the way it’s gonna be- and they made me feel guilty about it and I started to cry.” Samantha responded when asked if she was at the interview of her own free will.

Judge Asphaug refused to allow the interview into Grazzini-Rucki’s trial, Samantha Rucki testified by Skype, with her aunt, grandmother, and attorney in the same room but not in camera, her father was listening in from outside the door.

David Rucki Facebook April 2016, Public Statement About Missing Daughters

Furthermore, Judge Asphaug would only allow a limited number of questions. Samantha then downplayed the abuse and claimed she ran away to get away from a bad divorce.

Dryer said that having Samantha testify by Skype raises sixth amendment issues, of a defendant confronting their accuser.

Judge Asphaug argued that Samantha was too fragile to see her mother, but child rape victims are forced to confront their alleged rapist if that rapist is to be convicted.

In their response brief, prosecutors argued that since they weren’t directly involved in the witness tampering, they shouldn’t be held responsible.

Appellant (Evavold) fails to detail what misconduct Respondent (Dakota County Prosecutor) engaged in. In support of her argument, Appellant points to an interview that was conducted by law enforcement of SVR (Samantha). Appellant is under the misbelief that Respondent somehow coerced SVR into providing the statement and that SVR lied in the statement.

The prosecutor’s brief only alludes to a police interview but does not detail what Samantha said in the interview.

Dede Evavold also argued that there was judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, charges not answered by Backstrom.

Judge Asphaug placed herself on Evavold’s, Grazzini-Rucki’s, and the Dahlen’s cases, and refused to recuse herself when each of the four defendants asked.

Furthermore, in 2010, she appears to have fixed a case for David Rucki.

On September 8, 2009, David Rucki went into a fit of rage against his neighbors while they were escorting approximately a dozen two and three-year-old children to the daycare facility they ran.

Complainant stated his wife, two children, and six daycare kids ages three and under were in the driveway when suspect (David Rucki) approached. He stated the suspect threatened his wife, his son, and called them all assholes while standing in the cul-de-sac in front of their home. While I was speaking with the complainant, he informed me that the suspect drove by as we were speaking and put up his middle finger on his left hand at him. Complainant said that they have had on-going harassment type issues with the suspect and his dogs as a result of operating a home daycare facility. He said suspect’s dogs repeatedly come into his yard when daycare parents and kids arrive, barking and growling and the guests as the children are dropped off. He said they have tried to talk to the suspect in the past to mediate the situation, but that he no longer feels comfortable due to elevated language and behavior.

Rucki was charged with disorderly conduct and the case came in front of Judge Asphaug. On the eve of trial, Asphaug dismissed the case for a lack of probable cause, an inexplicable decision which has never been explained.

Lack of probable cause applies to cases with little or no evidence not an incident witnessed by several adults and approximately twelve children. Furthermore, if a case is dismissed due to a lack of probable cause it would be during normal pre-trial hearings, not on the eve of trial, and there’s no evidence that any sort of motion was even filed to trigger this.

Asphaug proceeded to exclude approximately 90% of the evidence of abuse: including David Rucki’s police report, all Child Protective Services reports, all orders for protection against David Rucki, and letters, from Sandra Grazzini Rucki’s, Dede Evavold’s, and the Dahlen’s trials.

Backstrom’s office provided answers to most of the charges of judicial misconduct but not all.

For instance, in their reply brief, the prosecution claims that Grazzini-Rucki only referred to three items as being excluded: The Fox 9 Newscast from June 2013, the GPS tracker from when David Rucki placed a tracker under Grazzini-Rucki’s friend and advocate’s car, Michael Rhedin, and Social Services records.

Assistant Dakota County Attorney, Kathryn Keena

But while Grazzini-Rucki did complain about these, and their exclusion is significant, police reports, letters, and other recordings were also excluded; Sandra Grazzini-Rucki complained of clear judicial bias.

The prosecution downplayed in its brief the breadth of the evidence excluded during trial.

Backstrom’s office did not respond to emails for comment.”

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REPOST CDN NEWS: Does a Recent Police Report Exonerate Sandra Grazzini-Rucki?

Does a recently found police report exonerate Sandra Grazzini-Rucki? <– READ FULL ARTICLE! 

Michael Volpe, of CDN News, reports on a newly released police report from the Lakeville P.D. that reveals that runaway teens, Samantha and Gianna Rucki, fought against returning to their father after being discovered living on a therapeutic horse ranch after going into hiding for more than 2 years. The girls decided to run away after the family court system failed to protect them from an abusive father and placed them into a custody situation they felt was unsafe.

That Samantha and Gianna threatened to run away from their father’s care AFTER being discovered by police the supports defense raised by mother, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, that she hid them for their safety (which is an affirmative defense). The girls demonstrated palpable fear of their father, David Rucki. It also validates the defense of Doug and Gina Dahlen who claimed both girls repeatedly threatened to run away if returned to their father, and they allowed the girls to stay on the ranch for their own safety, and that the girls were free to leave at any time but chose to stay of their own free will.

The police report, from November 21, 2015, was never seen before by Sandra who was charged with parental deprivation for her efforts to protect her daughters. As part of the discovery process, this police report should have been turned over to Grazzini-Rucki, and the 3 other defendants charged in this case.

According to Volpe: “If the Dakota County Prosecutor, whose office prosecuted the case, failed to provide this police report, this would be a “Brady violation” named after the U.S. Supreme Court Case Brady V Maryland, in which a conviction was overturned after prosecutors failed to provide exculpatory evidence, meaning, in this case, evidence favorable to the defense. In order for a legal proceeding to be just, all evidence must be shared with both sides…Ignoring Brady is not only an egregious violation of prosecutorial ethics…

Volpe goes on to say: “Given this issue, under normal circumstances, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s conviction would have been thrown out. But nothing has been normal in this case.

READ the police report for yourself –  Lakeville P.D. Supplement Report Grazzini-Rucki 11/21/2015

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom

Upon being found at a therapeutic horse ranch belonging to Doug and Gina Dahlen on 11/18/2015, the Rucki sisters told police they would run away again if returned to the care of their father, David Rucki.

According to the police report: “Samantha and Gianna came down, and immediately told us that they would not go back to their father. We told them that our first concern was their safety. I did ask them about the last time that they had heard from their mother, and they told me that they would not say anything without a lawyer.The report also indicated that Samantha has quote “issues with males”.

Arriving on scene was Detective Kelli Coughlin from the Lakeville police, who previously responded to an incident where Rucki swore and threatened a member of ex wife, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s family. The previous police report shows Rucki’s propensity towards violence, and the very real fear other people have of him. It also shows that Coughlin had knowledge of Rucki’s abuse violent behavior towards his family, and when the Lakeville P.D. pushed to return to the Rucki girls to a home they felt was unsafe, the Lakeville P.D. did so with full knowledge of the case, including abuse allegations.

The police report indicates the victim is fearful for his family and feels Rucki will follow through on his threats that include “I‘m coming after you and you won’t see me coming” and “It probably won’t be me (that will get you).” At the time of the incident, Sandra’s mother died the night before after an agonizing battle with cancer. While the family was still grieving Rucki fought to gain control of the family trust, and threatened and intimidated family members to stake a claim on something that was not legally or rightfully his. Rucki Police Report

Samantha and Gianna were assigned a social worker and also given a lawyer, both argued in court on behalf of the sisters that they their father and did not want to be placed in his care. The sisters stated they would attend therapy and not attempt to run away again if they were able to stay in foster care. Judge Michael Mayer of Dakota County denied the request, the sisters were sent to reunification therapy in rural California and then were placed backed into the custody of David Rucki, father, against their will.

Sandra Grazzini-Rucki Sentenced – Kathryn Keena Breaks Promise to Runaway Teen

sentencingsgr

Sept. 21, 2016 – Sandra Grazzini-Rucki prepared this statement to be read by her family law attorney after sentencing.

Sept. 21, 2016, Dakota County, Minnesota: A sign posted outside the courthouse by a religious group read. “When will the suffering end?

Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was sentenced today for her role in assisting her teenage daughters, who ran away from their paternal aunt, and the influence of their abusive father, in April 2013. A jury found Sandra guilty of 6 charges of felony deprivation of parental rights after Judge Karen Asphaug suppressed 75% of defense evidence. Sandra raised the affirmative defense, meaning her actions were taken to protect her children from imminent harm. The evidence suppressed supported claims of abuse. Other evidence was withheld from Sandra and her attorney by the State. Many claim this was a “rigged trial”.

Prosecuting Attorney Kathryn M. Keena sought an aggravated sentence against Sandra, which meant she would be given a much harsher sentence than what guidelines allow. Aggravated sentences are usually reserved for severe crimes like deviant sexual crimes, terrorism and repeat offenders. Keena had to drop her motion for aggravated sentencing because the charges did not meet the legal standards. Sandra has no prior criminal history and has complied with all the terms of her release while out on bond. She also has credit for 133 days spent in jail. Keena Drops Aggravated Sentence

Judge Karen J Asphaug

Judge Karen J Asphaug

However, Judge Asphaug found a way to manipulate the legal system in order to give Sandra a much harsher sentence. The sentence includes 6 years of probation, double the usual sentence – Judge Asphaug ruled that paternal aunt Tammy Love is also a “victim” in this crime. In addition, Judge Asphaug stretched out the sentence over 6 years to include a 15 day sentence every year, commencing on November 19th when the runaway Rucki girls were found. Guidelines say the most time a defendant can serve for what Sandra is charged with is one year and one day but Judge Asphaug found a way to lengthen the sentence for 6 years. Taxpayers will bear the financial burden of this unnecessary expense; and a bed in jail will be taken by Sandra who poses no risk to society, while a more serious offender is denied what they deserve.

Judge Asphaug also ruled that Sandra must pay several heavy fines. The law states that if the fines are not paid the judge can order additional penalty, which may include jail time. The fines include: $10,000 restitution to the Crime Board to cover costs for reunification therapy with an abusive father (reunification therapy is controversial, and not widely approved of by psychologists), undetermined costs to pay for therapy for the children, and two $944 dollar fines plus $80 court fees. Not to mention the costs for probation. Court records indicate that Sandra is currently receiving state aid, she was formerly employed as a flight attendant until jailed and extradited to Minnesota. With 6 felonies on her record, Sandra will certainly have difficulty finding employment, and have difficulty maintaining employment if forced to go to jail for 15 days every year plus other restrictions imposed by the terms of release. That being said, it would be very unlikely that Sandra could afford the fines, which may result in further jail time beyond her sentence. Judge Asphaug also ordered Sandra to sentence to serve, and if she does not comply, she would face additional jail time beyond her sentence. In effect, an aggravated sentence was imposed on Sandra by Judge Asphaug and Prosecutor Keena, who found a way to manipulate the legal system to exact a punishment that goes well beyond the guidelines for this crime.

Assistant Dakota County Attorney, Kathryn Keena

Assistant Dakota County Attorney, Kathryn Keena

Kathryn Keena admitted in court that she “made a promise” to S. Rucki and said to the teen that she “will not request any additional jail time and will keep that request”.  Judge Asphaug interrupted and said the “Court did not engage in promises” and she is “learning of it for the first time today“.  Making a “promise” with a vulnerable, traumatized teen is unethical and an abuse of power. It also gives the appearance that Keen bribed S. Rucki to testify – meaning she told S. Rucki that if you testify against your mother, I “promise” not to seek any additional jail time for her. Kathryn Keena unapologetically broke her promise to S. Rucki today. Keena has taken her place in the long line of Dakota County court officials who have violated the trust, and exploited the Rucki children.

Another interesting moment at sentencing was the lengthy “victim impact” statement read by David Rucki that included, “the woman in court today is not the woman I married 25 years ago – the woman I married suddenly became who she is now, a convicted felon“. Rucki elaborated about the pain he experienced in the 944 days his teen daughters went missing.

The police reports, CPS reports, witness statements, need for repeated reunification therapy because the children showed signs of fear towards Rucki (and raised abuse allegations) and even a letter from Dr. Gilbertson to the Court all illustrate the pain, terror and abuse Rucki inflicted on Sandra and the children. To believe that Sandra alienated not only her children but alienated so many people to turn against David Rucki is not only improbable but ridiculous.

When David is talking about his pain, and eliciting public sympathy, consider this…

G was interviewed on 11/23/15. She reports dad was always screaming at mom. Neighbors called the house the ‘Scream House’. She thought her home situation was normal as she didn’t know any different… Her dad would stalk the house when they were with mom.  He showed anger like ‘I’m gonna kill you’. She got no hugs growing up…”   Rucki CPS Reports

There are two prevailing emotional themes that these children speak to: One is fear of being in the presence of their father  given what they allege to he being an angry and violent person. A second theme is anger over his alleged mistreatment...It is my opinion that the children’s fear issue needs to be addressed directly, and that can happen when there is exposure to the specifically feared object, situation, or person, i.e.  father…

I would work with Mr. Rucki to have him present a certain structure and accounting of his own behavior while the family was intact that would acknowledge the volatile family history and express his empathy for the children’s painful memories..” Dr. Gilbertson Letter to GAL Julie Friedrich – Feb. 6, 2013

Dr. James Gilbertson, PhD

Dr. James Gilbertson, PhD

Q (Kelli Coughlin): So how has it been since you’ve been back home?

A. (S. Rucki) I work 40 hours a week.

Q. Ok

A. Otherwise I am in my room or I am out.

Q. Do you feel secluded?

A. I am going to move out as soon as I can start driving and get money saved up. I can’t be around this anymore.” Kelli Coughlin, Lakeville PD, interview with S. Rucki

Dakota County and the State of Minnesota has not only sentenced Sandra but their ruling has condemned every abused woman, and every abused child in family court. A clear message is being sent – if you talk about abuse, you will not be believed and you may lose custody, lose your home, lose your career and your freedom. This tragedy could have been prevented had Judge Knutson and the family court system appropriately responded to the concerns of abuse, and intervened early on. Instead the court’s actions enabled abuse to continue to the point where the home was so unsafe that 4 out of 5 children threatened to run away and two succeeded in running away. 

After sentencing, attorney Michelle MacDonald (Sandra’s family law attorney) read a statement that Sandra had prepared ahead of time. The statement said, in part, “For the last 5 years, I have had to endure the loss of my children (all 5 are named). They alone are my world…And now I’m paying the price for what any parent would do for their children – protect them from harm.”

Sandra is now in custody; ironically it is only behind bars that she is truly safe from David Rucki. Sandra is expected to appeal.

Dakota County Judicial Center

Dakota County Judicial Center

Continuing Coverage from Lion News: S. Rucki Tells Police, “I Have to Be Here and I Have to Recant Everything…”

barbwireheart

Q. (Kelli Coughlin) Are you forced to be here?

A. (S. Rucki) No, but it’s definitely not on free will choice…

Q. (Kelli Coughlin) What do you mean by that?

A. (S. Rucki) They basically said I have to, and I have to be here and I have to recant everything I said and that’s the way it’s gonna have to be and they made me feel really guilty and I started crying.

Q. (Kelli Coughlin) Ok, who is they?

A. (S. Rucki) My Dad and Tammy (paternal aunt)

Lion News has obtained video footage of a police interview with S. Rucki conducted at the Lakeville Police Department on June 30, 2016, with Kelli Coughlin.

During the interview, S.R. admits her father, David Rucki, “guilted” her into attending the interview and attempted to get her to “recant”. Paternal aunt, Tammy Love is also mentioned as pressuring S.R. In April 2013, after Judge David L. Knutson gave temporary sole custody to Love, S.R. and her sister, G.R. ran away. The Girls said they did not feel safe with Tammy – remarks S.R. made in this interview validate those concerns.

This is not the first interview S.R. has had with the Lakeville Police. — An interview was also conducted in November 2015, after the runaway sisters were found. Laura Adelmann, Sun This Week, wrote this after speaking to Rucki, “When the call came from Lakeville police stating they had been found, Rucki’s relief was immediately followed by the urgency of a plan for where they should go.

Rucki said the girls were uncooperative and fearful with police, and he knew the family needed counseling.

They eventually entered a family counseling clinic in California (Transitioning Families)….”Finding normal by Laura Adelmann 8/18/2016

Uncooperative? Fearful? Both S.R. and her sister G.R. were talking – just not saying what their father wanted to hear. I suppose that is what makes them “uncooperative. According to records, the Girls were talking with their foster parents, talking with a social worker appointed to their case, and had been appointed an attorney. The Girls also spoke to Judge Michael J. Mayer, who was appointed to their case to decide if a child protection issue existed, and who would ultimately decide where the Girls were placed. The Girls were very clear in stating they are afraid of Rucki and they have concerns for their safety if placed in his care. The girls agreed to participate in therapy if allowed to stay in foster care, and agreed not to run away again. They even agreed to return to school. What child begs to be placed in foster care? Obviously these children were desperately seeking help and at every level, the system that was supposed to protect them, instead failed.

Judge Mayer determined that reunification is best and warned the Girls that if they attempt to run away again, law enforcement will pursue them. A security guard then escorted the Girls on an airplane, headed for a reunification program located in an isolated part of California. The Girls were taken from their only source of support – their attorney, social worker, foster parents – and headed into the unknown. Transitioning Families was chosen especially for its remote location, because if they ran, there would be no place to go. Survival depended on going along with the program. The report of their father, David Rucki, was more important than their own wishes, feelings or needs because his word alone determined their fate. When they left reunification, the Girls would return to his care. The pressures upon these Girls must have been tremendous, facing not only their father but a punitive court system as well.

Only AFTER attending reunification therapy, months later, did Rucki take S.R. to the police to be interviewed for her mother’s impending criminal trial. Rucki has clearly attempted to get S.R. to not only recant but has also attempted to use “reunification” as a tool to do so.  In doing so, he has interfered with an ongoing police investigation. What has been done to S.R. is abusive- not reunification, and certainly not therapy.

Pressured, Threatened S. Rucki Bravely Speaks Out Against “Horrendous” Family Court

horrendousfamilycourt2

Lakeville, Minnesota: Lion News released an emotional video excerpt of the June 30, 2016 interview between Samantha Rucki and Detective Kelli Coughlin. LION NEWS: EXCLUSIVE VIDEO OF SAMANTHA RUCKI CALLING DAKOTA CO. JUDGE KNUTSON A “DICK”

The shocking video begins with Samantha tearfully crying, “It never should of happened, I just want to be with my Mom.” At another point in the interview, Samantha says, “I just wanted to be with her (Sandra) and no one would let us…

Samantha was questioned about her two-year long disappearance following a family court order that temporarily granted custody to paternal aunt, Tammy Jo  Love, and placed the Rucki children within the control of abusive father, David Rucki. The Rucki children raised numerous allegations of abuse against their father and also stated that they did not feel safe in the care of Tammy Jo Love.

Samantha admits she was “guilted” by her father, David Rucki, to do an interview with police and told to “recant”.

Earlier this week, journalist Michael Volpe reported on the same interview: Explosive Rucki police interview adds new wrinkle to story

Volpe elaborates on the interview, offering additional details, including, “Initially, the younger Rucki told the Detective that her father attempted to threaten her ahead of the interview, “They (her father and his sister) basically said I have to (go to the interview) and I have to be here and I have to recant everything I said and it’s going and that’s the way it’s gonna be- and they made me feel guilty about it and I started to cry.”

This tampering takes on extra meaning because when Samantha testified in her mother’s trial, the court took the unusual step of allowing Samantha to testify by Skype and out of the view of the jury. Her father, his sister, her grandmother, and attorney were all in the room all out of the view of the jury.

At least one child did recant his story – Nico Rucki previously disclosed physical and mental abuse from his father, has now changed his story and says it was Sandra who pressured him to make those claims. Was Nico subjected to the same treatment as Samantha had described?

Comments made in the police interview suggest that Rucki terrorized his family. Samantha states she felt “frightened”, and witnessed escalating violence in the home, “It was constantly screaming, and he (David Rucki) was getting to the point where he was starting to get physical.”

Samantha admits she ran away because she was in a “panic” and says the failures of the Dakota County Family Court -specifically  Judge David L. Knutson, Julie Friedrich (Guardian ad Litem), Dr. Gilbertson (a therapist) – contributed to her decision.

Sandra’s criminal trial was presided by Judge Karen Asphaug, who refused to allow the transcript or audio of this interview to be entered as evidence. Judge Asphaug also refused to allow a domestic violence expert to testify on Sandra’s behalf; 75% of evidence submitted was withheld from the jury.

Sandra is due to be sentenced September 21st – she has been charged with 6 felony counts of depriving custodial rights. The circumstances surrounding her conviction raise concerns that she did not receive a fair trial.

Also concerning is the safety and well-being of the Rucki children. David Rucki went to great lengths in an attempt to silence Samantha…what has he got to hide, and what lengths will he go to bury the truth?

 

Judge Karen J Asphaug

Judge Karen J Asphaug

 

Judge David L Knutson

Judge David L Knutson

Dr. James Gilbertson, PhD

Dr. James Gilbertson, PhD

Guardian ad Litem Julie Friedrich

Guardian ad Litem Julie Friedrich