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

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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.

David Rucki “Paper Divorce” Scam

Dakota County, Minn, August 2016: Trucking contractor, David Rucki’s false statements and refusal to provide information about his finances in legal proceedings suggest an ongoing pattern of  fraud and financial abuse.

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David Rucki (Fox 9)

False statements include: Rucki lied during the criminal trial of ex-wife Sandra Grazzini-Rucki when making claims that he was duped into signing a divorce settlement in 2011, claiming that he had no knowledge of what was happening. In truth, Rucki signed over a dozen documents, in front of numerous witnesses, and willingly entered into the original divorce settlement.

Rucki lied when stating that Sandra masterminded a “paper divorce” scam that stripped him of everything he owned. What did Rucki lose? He retained a multi-million dollar company and its assets, retained numerous vehicles and property and eventually won sole custody of all five children. The truth is that Sandra was forcibly separated from her children, left homeless and destitute, and stripped of her portion of the family trust (a non-marital asset) as a result of an unjust family court order. The entire proceeds of Sandra’s portion of the trust were turned over to Rucki. Rucki is also the beneficiary of his own, separate family trust; which has remained intact.

Assistant Dakota County Attorney, Kathryn Keena

Assistant Dakota County Attorney, Kathryn Keena

During the criminal trial, Rucki’s lies about the financial aspects of the divorce were repeated by Prosecuting Attorney, Kathryn M. Keena. Keena had possession of the Grazzini-Rucki family court file, and either ignored or suppressed evidence to endorse Rucki’s sob story. Rucki’s lies about the “paper divorce” were used by Keena to discredit Sandra during the criminal trial. Keena portrayed Sandra as a vindictive ex-wife who would do anything to destroy poor Rucki, including financially wipe him out. Rucki is now claiming he suffered extreme emotional distress, and that Sandra should be given the harshest penalty possible. Keena attempted to impose an aggravated sentence against Sandra but was unsuccessful because the case does not meet the legal standard for aggravating circumstances. Keena Drops Aggravated Sentence Against Sandra Grazzini-Rucki/

Claims of Rucki’s victimization are not supported by fact. Court documents, and testimony from Rucki himself, reveal a much different story that what he has recently portrayed to the jury, and to the public about the “paper divorce”. Unmasked, Rucki’s claims are that of an abuser projecting his own heinous deeds onto a victim. David Rucki is a man who is willing to destroy his own family, and put his children through the pain of divorce, in order to benefit financially from a scam he alone concocted. Rucki calls this scam the “paper divorce”.

Rucki’s Sob Story: Fact or Fiction?

Prevailing themes in the Grazzini-Rucki divorce and custody dispute, and its aftermath, involve allegations of domestic violence, and financial fraud. What is lost in the court, and following media controversy is that abuse has impacted the Grazzini-Rucki family at every level, even financially.

David Rucki’s divorce sob story, and alleged financial ruin, was prominently featured in an article published by Laura Adelmann, reporter with the Sun This Week at the end of July 2016: Revealing testimony highlights Grazzini-Rucki trial  Adelmann offered “revealing testimony” from Sandra’s criminal trial, including testimony from Rucki who claimed he was victimized in divorce proceedings.

Testifying in the criminal trial, Rucki accuses Sandra of pushing for an “on paper only” divorce. However, in family court, Rucki admits the “on paper only” divorce was his idea. Rucki stated during a deposition on August 8, 2011 that a “paper divorce” was needed “to get the business going” and he “didn’t think it would be the end of his marriage (abuse involves the exploitation of the victim). Findings from Judge Knutson (Re-Opening of the Judgement and Decree) also state that Sandra did not know about the “on paper” divorce and there was “no meeting of the minds”. In other words, Rucki conned Sandra during divorce proceedings.

Rucki lied during the criminal trial when testifying about the “paper only divorce” and assigned blame to Sandra. Rucki’s comments are significant because these false statements were used to paint Sandra as a vindictive ex-wife, which contributed to her being charged with 6 felonies. Prosecuting Attorney Keena had the Grazzini-Rucki family court file available to her, and referred to it during trial. Instead of presenting facts, Keena chose to present a lie in order to build her case and secure a win.

The Paper Divorce Scam

spam clip art

The “Paper Divorce” began with a mutually agreed upon divorce settlement and resulted in Rucki successfully contesting the divorce, claiming he did not read or see the documents and was tricked into signing by Sandra. At the same time as he claiming to be a victim, Rucki admits divorce had financial advantages for him, that it would benefit his business.

According to court documents, “Respondent (Rucki) alleged that the parties agreed to a ‘paper divorce’, which would allow Petitioner (Sandra) to access some funds from a trust while parties continued living as husband and wife.” Sandra’s portion of the family trust is a non-marital asset, Rucki is not entitled to it – there is not any stipulation in the trust documents that would allow Rucki to access funds as he described. Rucki not only felt entitled to the trust, but ruthlessly pursued it.

Is it plausible that David had no idea what was going on with the divorce, as he claims? Laura Adelmann reports: “Rucki also testified that he arrived home one day in 2011 to discover he was divorced, and Grazzini-Rucki called police who removed him from their Lakeville home. I never went to a court proceeding or saw anything,’ David Rucki said. ‘I couldn’t figure it out.’ Adelmann also reports: “David Rucki testified he returned later that night and took photos of the divorce decree that awarded sole custody of their children to Grazzini-Rucki and severed his rights to the house, property and everything they owned.”  Rucki, a successful businessman and trucking contractor, has signed countless contracts and other legal documents throughout his career, and now is unable to understand his own divorce settlement? 

Source: Movato.com – David Rucki retained ownership of this home after the original divorce settlement. He has claimed the divorce left him with nothing – yet retained ownership of a business, and other assets.

A paper trail of court documents, and other evidence, indicate that Rucki was aware, and actively participating in the divorce proceedings that he now claims he knew nothing about. Rucki met with Sandra to discuss the terms of the divorce, he signed multiple documents and agreed to settlement on April 19, 2011. Rucki also signed a waiver of counsel and declined his right to legal representation. Dissolution was granted on May 12, 2011, Judge Wermager approved of the settlement.

Further, Rucki admits in court proceedings that he wanted the divorce to provide additional revenue for his business: “Respondent (Rucki) testified that Petitioner and Respondent had discussed getting a divorce ‘in paper only’ for financial purposes…” 

While Rucki’s story has changed numerous times about the “paper divorce”, Sandra’s has remained the same, “Petitioner (Sandra) testified that she did not know what Respondent was talking about when he referred to an ‘in paper only’ divorce.”(Findings of Fact, Order Dated 9/21/2011, Judge Knutson). Adelmann reports the same, “In court, Grazzini-Rucki denied she suggested getting a divorce on paper so she could access the trust funds.

The only person who benefited from the “paper divorce” is Rucki. When it was no longer beneficial to be associated with this scam, he shifted the blame onto the victim, Sandra.

Adelmann reports: “The order also required David Rucki to pay $3,673 per month in child support and $10,000 per month in spousal maintenance, according to court documents.It left me with zero,’ Rucki said. He said Grazzini-Rucki had earlier proposed they divorce ‘on paper only’  so she could access $1.5 million from a family trust.” Question – how does Rucki go from not knowing anything about the divorce, to reciting specific details that indicate he is aware of the terms of settlement? Once again, Rucki cannot keep his story straight!

Also notice that Rucki’s focus during his testimony about the “paper divorce”is on himself, and completely ignores the impact this would have on the children. In another example, taken from the August 8, 2011 deposition, Rucki says the fair way to handle the property division after the divorce is to “sell it all”. When asked where the children would live (if the house were sold), Rucki replies, “That is something we will have to figure out when the courts figure it out.” Rucki is totally unconcerned that his actions could cause the children to become homeless, and yet he portrays himself as the victim.

Rucki bankrolled his business on Sandra’s misfortune. Rucki’s own words, recorded in a transcript from August 8, 2011  “In order for me to get working again and to get a credit line back, right, was to get rid of the existing credit line that was there two hundred some – I don’t remember what the exact number is – hundred dollars, I don’t know what… She (Sandra) told me she can get the money, and I kept asking where; she never told me, and that she would pay off the credit line. Now that allows me to work and go after re-establishing getting a new credit line okay?

The kicker to this story was, she didn’t tell me that she was going to take the house (Ireland Place) that we used as collateral against the loan; so on May 12 that whole thing unraveled for me. Now she pays off, she is my godsend and paying off this terrible loan, and all of a sudden, she pulls the carpet from under me and takes the house; now I have nothing to back the loan, okay? That’s one of the problems I have with the bank right now, I have no collateralization.”. Rucki states later in the same transcript that Rucki Trucking “is almost defunct”.  Adelmann reports, He also stated Grazzini-Rucki told him the trust has a provision that if she or other siblings were divorced and struggling financially, they could access some of its money and get some financial relief.” There is no provision in the trust documents that states what Rucki claims. Rucki was scrambling to establish another credit line, and preyed upon Sandra to do it. The same house, Ireland Place, is also connected to allegations of mortgage fraud.

Judge David L Knutson

Judge David L Knutson

Also concerning, is the response of the court. In the Re-Opening of the Judgement and Decree Judge Knutson found that: “Even if Respondent (Rucki) did have the opportunity to review the Judgement and Decree, Respondent (Rucki) testified that he thought parties were agreeing to a ‘paper divorce’. The mismatch between the parties’ intentions provides sufficient evidence of mistake to vacate the Judgement and Decree on these grounds alone. clearly, there was no meeting of the minds with respect to the Stipulated Judgement and Decree.” In his own words, and in front of Judge Knutson, Rucki admits he devised the “paper divorce” scam and used the courts to swindle Sandra out of her portion of the family trust. Rucki’s “intention” clearly involved fraud, and manipulaton. Judge Knutson ignores that a criminal act is taking place right under his nose, and then extends preferential treatment towards Rucki. The result has been disastrous for Sandra, the children, and now even the public is at risk. The term “the Rucki Divorce” is now being used to describe the legal precedent this case has created. 

Aftermath

Rucki is expected to make a victim impact statement at Sandra’s sentencing on September 21st – his words will weigh heavily on the sentence imposed against Sandra. Prosecuting Attorney Keena has already attempted to give Sandra an aggravated sentence, imposing a harsh penalty because, she claims, Rucki has suffered so much. Will society be safer with Sandra in prison? Or does the true danger exist in a court system that is willing to put an abuse victim, who sought to protect her children, in jail in order to protect a dangerous abuser?

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