Grazzini-Rucki Case Suggests Witness Tampering, Continued Abuse of Runaway Rucki Girl

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Because the witness told investigators that her father made her change her story and her story did in fact change from previous statements, it is apparent that witness tampering occurred.” – Motion filed by the Dahlens 12/23/2016

(Dakota County, Minn): More evidence supporting that David Rucki has abused his children in the past, and continues to emotionally and psychologically abuse S.R. emerges from the criminal trial of Doug and Gina Dahlen…

Doug and Gina Dahlen, the couple who sheltered S.R. and G.R. on their therapeutic horse ranch for 2 1/2 years, filed a motion to request an evidentiary hearing regarding witness tampering on 12/23/2016 in Dakota County. (The Dahlens have since plead “guilty” for felony charges of parental deprivation under questionable circumstances).

Read the motion in it’s entirety: Dakota County accused of witness tampering in Doug and Gina Dahlen case

Doug and Gina Dahlen

Doug and Gina Dahlen

The motion was filed to request a hearing to determine whether witness tampering has occurred. The alleged witness tampering is based on David Rucki, the Lakeville P.D. and Dakota County’s treatment towards S.R. – one of the teen girls who fled after Judge David L. Knutson placed her in an unsafe environment.

Public Domain: http://chainimage.com/

Public Domain: http://chainimage.com/

THE DAHLENS: RUCKI SISTERS DISCLOSE ABUSE

The motion details the heart wrenching day that S.R. and G.R. came to the Dahlen family. In late April of 2013, both girls came to the ranch, and according to the motion,”When the girls arrived, both were very emotional, crying and appeared scared. Both girls appeared extremely fearful to the Dahlens. In fact, the Dahlens had never seen two girls so visibly and physically frightened. In essence, they were scared for their lives.

S.R. and G.R. had good reason to be afraid of David Rucki. When the girls became more comfortable with the Dahlens, they shared their fears, and painful memories. According to the motion, the girls told the Dahlens that Rucki made threats, displayed sexually inappropriate behavior, and police were called a number of times after he violated restraining orders.

frisked

According to the Dahlens, the girls reported that they were scared of Rucki and he “had a habit of peeking in outside windows..” The Dahlens said talking about their home life, and the thought of returning to the care of their father (Rucki) made S.R. and G.R. so upset that they would shake and become physically sick “with fear and panic“.

It should be noted that S.R. exhibited the same emotional and physical symptoms as to what the Dahlens observed when she was questioned by social workers and police after she had been recovered; when making statements regarding her home life prior to the divorce, abuse and the events leading up to when she ran away. The difference is that the Dahlens correctly identified S.R.’s reaction as a traumatic response, but when S.R. was put back under the control of Dakota County the abuse cover up continued and S.R. was labelled “fragile” and in need of de-programming.

The motion states that Dahlens permitted S.R. and G.R. to stay at their Ranch because they reasonably believed that the girls were at risk for physical, sexual or emotional harm if they returned.

S.R. and her sister G.R. went into hiding, living with the Dahlens for 2 1/2 years. In an interview with ABC 20/20, Gina Dahlen says the teen girls “made a new life” for themselves on the Ranch, and they were free to leave anytime they wanted but chose to stay. While staying on the Ranch, S.R. and G.R. were home schooled. The girls did chores on the Ranch, and helped with the website – but never used the internet to contact their father or make an effort to return to Lakeville, where they lived. Dahlen says there was no effort to conceal the girls, they used their real names and went into town, socializing with others.

This is also confirmed in social worker notes, taken from an interview conducted after the S.R. and G.R. were discovered living on the Ranch in November 2015, (Social Service Records – Rucki ) “The girls appeared well cared for and like it at the (redacted).”

The social worker reports that S.R. told her,”It was so great up there.” And,”They were given hugs and love. She loves Doug and Gina and says Gina was like a mom to her.

S.R. also told the social worker about the abusive, dysfunctional home environment created by her father, David Rucki, and warned that she would run if placed back into his custody.

G.R. says this about the Dahlens,”She feels Doug and Gina gave up their lives for them. She feels at peace there, they talked about God and read the Bible. They taught her to forgive.

When asked about her father, G.R. told the social worker, “She still feels fear of dad… She does not want to live with him and she feels he still has control over her. She does not feel mom played role in her thoughts or feelings about her dad.” G.R. also stated that she will run if made to return to dad.

TRANSITIONING FAMILIES INVOLVED IN WITNESS TAMPERING?

(Note: Inquiry by Justice blog.. these comments are NOT part of the Dahlen’s motion)

It is unknown if S.R. or G.R. have attempted to run away again but it is known that the sisters were put through intensive de-programming (aka mind control) and reunification therapy at Transitioning Families, a  ranch  situated in a remote location in California. It could be argued that David Rucki’s efforts to put S.R. and G.R. in the program at Transitioning Families is a form of witness tampering.

Transitioning Families was chosen because if the girls did attempt to run away they would have no place to go. Court records state that S.R. and G.R. were both willing to attend therapy in Minnesota, and promised not to run if placed in a foster home. There was no need to send the sisters to California because they could undergo therapy in Minnesota, where they live, and where they would receive ongoing treatment (if needed). There would be no risk of running if the girls were placed in a foster home, and allowed to transition back into their lives at their own pace and comfort level.  But that didn’t happen.

Dr. Rebecca Bailey, Transitioning Families

Dr. Rebecca Bailey, Transitioning Families

Therapist Dr. Rebecca Bailey, of Transitioning Families, facilitated reunification between David Rucki and the girls. At the time of reunification, Rucki was on probation after being convicted of a violent road rage incident. Yet Bailey showed no concern for the safety of the girls, despite Rucki’s lengthy criminal record, that included being referred to anger management and psychological testing as part of probation. In an interview with a local paper, Rucki says Dr. Bailey determined that he does not pose a danger to anyone after an incident where he was kicked in the privates by a pony, and did not show signs of violence. However, that incident does not qualify as a valid psychological assessment, or involve the use of acceptable medical practices. Evidence suggests that Dr. Bailey ignored and/or dismissed abuse allegations raised by the Rucki children, as well as evidence supporting that abuse did occur. Dr. Bailey also failed to consider Rucki’s history or do a risk assessment when forcing the S.R. and G.R. (and their siblings) into reunification. The end result of the Transitioning Families program was that adults who are skilled in psychology used isolation and programming tactics to get two vulnerable, frightened teenage girls to recant abuse allegations. From the motion filed by the Dahlens (p. 5) “Intimidate can simply mean to make timidIn the Eighth Circuit, exhortations to remain loyal to one’s people or family is sufficient to support a conviction for witness tampering...”

The way testimony was taken from S.R. during the criminal trial of her mother could also be considered witness tampering. During her criminal trial, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki attempted to subpoena S.R. (who had turned 18) and G.R. to appear and testify. Grazzini-Rucki’s efforts were challenged by both David Rucki and his attorney, Lisa Elliott, and by Prosecutor Kathryn Keena. Their arguments were supported by Dr. Bailey, who wrote a letter to the Court, stating she did not feel the girls were capable of testifying and recommended that if S.R.. were to testify it should be by video only. Dr. Bailey’s letter was submitted to Judge Karen Asphaug for review. Grazzini-Rucki and her attorney were not given a copy, nor allowed to read it. Judge Asphaug agreed with the recommendation, G.R. was not allowed to testify and S.R. could testify by video only.

S.R. testified by video conferencing under extremely unusual circumstances. S.R. was out of view of the jury and present with her in the room was father, David Rucki, paternal aunt Tammy Jo Love (her fear of Love caused S.R. to run away), and both paternal grandparents and an armed bailiff. The defense attorney was limited in the questions he could ask and evidence of abuse was suppressed.

According to the motion (p. 5),”Witness tampering can be overt or subtle and includes emotional manipulation…The Minnesota Supreme Court has recognized that even ‘general or specific threats of reprisal’ would constitute witness intimidation…The Court has also acknowledged that  the mere presence of spectators in the courtroom can result in witness intimidation.

BASIS FOR THE WITNESS TAMPERING MOTION

Doug and Gina Dahlen raise a compelling, and legally sound, argument that witness tampering involving S.R. did occur.

From the time S.R. and G.R. stayed at the Ranch until their tearful good-bye, the girls have consistently told the same story about the abuse they have endured at the hands of their father, and the failure of the family court to protect them, is the reason why they ran away, to seek safety. Upon return to Rucki’s care, S.R. told law enforcement that she was  pressured and guilted to recant by her father and Tammy Love. S.R. also stated that court paperwork was “all over the house“, that the issue was constantly raised, and she could not get away from it.  When S.R. did give a statement to police, it was Rucki who drove her to the police station.

Journalist Michael Volpe has extensively researched the Grazzini-Rucki case, and has uncovered another aspect of possible witness tampering involving the same incident: David Rucki claims indigence, hires two private lawyers This article offers additional insight on the questionable interview with S.R. and police, conducted on June 30, 2016. During the interview, S.R. reveals that she had been reading about her family’s involvement with the court system on the Carver County Corruption blog. S.R. said she discovered the site after going to the library, logging onto a computer, and doing an internet search on her name.

At the time of the interview the Carver County Corruption blog had been permanently shut down. Another blogger writing about the Grazzini-Rucki case had removed articles she had written from her blog, and stopped covering the case altogether. These events happened in response to a June 7, 2016 letter written to the blog owners from a law firm employed by David Rucki. The letter implied the bloggers could face “various civil claims” against them and “litigation seeking substantial damages“. As a result, the blog articles were taken down, and S.R. was no longer able to freely access information offering another perspective on the case. It should also be noted that the Carver County Corruption blog gave S.R. a voice because it posted letters and comments she provided to the courts. In a broader perspective, shutting down the blogs has also limited the public’s access to information and documentation regarding the Grazzini-Rucki case; and attempted to make one viewpoint – that of David Rucki – the dominant source of information.

LAKEVILLE POLICE IMPLICATED IN WITNESS TAMPERING

The Dahlen motion also implicates Lakeville police in witness tampering, stating that (p. 8), “Law enforcement investigators in this case apparently avoided asking SVR questions which would develop responses favoring the affirmative defense. Anytime the possibility arose that David Rucki would be portrayed in a negative light, Detective Coughlin backed off.

During the June 30th interview, S.R. told Det. Coughlin that she was brought to the interview against her free will, and pressured and guilted into recanting abuse allegations by Rucki and Love. The pressure was so intense that S.R. began to cry.

The motion states that Det. Coughlin never asked S.R. to elaborate when speaking about issues related to abuse. And that S.R.’s statement to police shows change from the story she has consistently told prior to being recovered. S.R.’s testimony takes yet another turn in court, where claims to not have seen or remembered abuse, and stated that she was not in her right mind when speaking to police.

Perhaps the impact of reunification therapy at Transitioning Families has taken its toll? Perhaps Rucki and Love have finally crushed her spirit? What has not changed is that S.R. remains tearful, emotional and her body language indicates trauma – she shakes or curls up into a ball when questioned. And that is the tragedy of the Grazzini-Rucki case, that the court system has completely failed to protect the Rucki children from the abuse they endured and witnessed, and instead protected the abuser, to the detriment of the children.

The Dahlen motion has not only raised concerns about witness tampering but at its core, it is a statement that raises serious concerns that S.R. (and the other Rucki children) is being emotionally and psychologically abused and continue to be at risk in the care of David Rucki.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Keena Drops Aggravated Sentence Against Sandra Grazzini-Rucki

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

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

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.

ViolateOFP2

Dr. James Gilbertson, PhD

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

Kathryn Keena

Kathryn Keena

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.

 

Emotional Pain?

David Rucki Making Jokes in a Public Statement

Regarding the Return of his Daughters

David Rucki statement 4/14/2106

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?

 

What’s Next?

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.

Additional Reading:

Jury Selection Proves Difficult in Rucki Case by Michael Volpe

2015 MN Statutes: 244.10 SENTENCING HEARING; DEVIATION FROM GUIDELINES