Continued from Part 1: Diesel Therapy: Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s Torturous Journey on Prison Transport
U.S. Marshal Mayhem
At 66 minutes into The Grazzini-Rucki Story as You’ve Never Heard Before Sandra bravely shares what happened when she was apprehended by U.S. Marshals, her time in jail, and the horror of prison transport.
On October 18, 2015, Sandra was working as a flight attendant, and during her layover sharing a hotel room with a co-worker (which normal for that profession). Sandra went to bed as usual but later was startled awake by voices shouting her name. She opened her eyes to see four men with shotguns pointed at her face, wearing full swat gear with goggles over their eyes. Sandra was grabbed by the arm and yanked to the ground. She was then handcuffed and walked into the next room where she saw her co-worker, also in handcuffs.
The co-worker was sleeping on a couch in another room when, without warning, U.S. Marshals kicked the door in and threw the co-worker to ground. Guns were drawn against his head and he was handcuffed behind his back. The co-worker has never been charged with a crime, he was only subjected to this terrifying treatment because he was in the same unit as Sandra at the time of capture.
U.S. Marshals tore the hotel room apart, asking “Where are the guns?” “Where are the kids?” Sandra was shocked to learn that she was charged with gun running, kidnapping and human trafficking. Keep in mind, news of the “sealed” arrest warrant had been reported in one of the largest newspapers in Minnesota two months prior – and according to their report Sandra was only being charged with felony deprivation of parental rights. The U.S. Marshals were acting on false information, even though the entire State of Minnesota had been notified of the real charges through the press: Mother sought in case of two missing Lakeville girls
After weeks of surveillance, and use of extensive manpower on the tax payer’s dime, the U.S. Marshals turned up two flight bags and two flight attendant uniforms in their exhaustive investigation that somehow was not able to detect the phony charges. All of Sandra’s belongings were confiscated and have never been returned. Dave Oney has a lot of explaining to do about the Marshal’s mishandling of the Grazzini-Rucki case, yet remains purposefully evasive.
The U.S. Marshals is the oldest law enforcement agency in the Department of Justice and supposed to be the most experienced, and yet they have been bamboozled by the officials of Dakota County, which is nothing more than a blip in the middle of the Minnesota cornfields. How does a podunk Prosecutor’s office con the U.S. Marshals into believing a stay-at-home mom and flight attendant of 30+ years with an impeccable service record is a violent criminal? The role of the Marshal’s in the Grazzini-Rucki case should be investigated, continued silence and cover up erodes public trust in the program, and hints an even bigger problem may exist.
Once the U.S. Marshals detain a suspect the next step is to take them into federal custody – but that never happened. Sandra was told by Marshals that “this never happened before” and “there was a misunderstanding” regarding the serious, felony level charges leveled against her. Misunderstanding? How is that possible – the reporters at the local press knew what the charges were, and have rigorously defended their story – and yet the U.S. Marshals can’t get their story straight! Dakota County refused to sign Sandra into federal custody and instead asked the Marshals to handle the case as “just a local issue”. Sandra was booked into a county jail based on the sealed warrant. Btw Dave Oney claims the Marshals went to these lengths because Sandra was a fugitive. But the warrant was sealed so it is impossible for her to be a fugitive – how can you flee from something that you do not know exists?
Shackled, Shoved Into a Dog Cage
Sandra was booked into jail in Osceola County, Florida, based on the warrant from Dakota County/Prosecutor Keena. Despite the “misunderstanding”, Sandra was still being held as a federal fugitive and placed on the maximum level of security. This meant that Sandra was placed into a cell block reserved for the most serious offenders, and roomed into a prison cell with a women who murdered a man during a robbery by shooting him the face with a shotgun. Sandra says about the cell block she was placed into that it was “like Charlie Manson on steroids”.
The cellmate was surprised to see Sandra enter, stating she is at the high level of security, as a convicted murdered, and says she does not get roommates because of her crime. Sandra recalls being questioned by the cellmate as to why she was there. Michael Volpe comments that the authorities refused to fix the error because they probably wanted Sandra in maximum security, with a dangerous cellmate.
If Sandra thought her situation was dire, things were about to get worse as she was given a strong dose of “diesel therapy”.
At 76 minutes into the show Sandra’s voice begins to tremble as she recalls the moment she was dragged out of the cell in the middle of the night, and her ordeal on prison transport began. Luckily for her, the prisoners warned Sandra to put multiple pads in her pants (prisoners are rarely given bathroom breaks). Sandra was also warned that she would be deprived of food and water. From behind bars, Sandra looked North toward the freedom star, her view was obstructed by cinder block walls and darkness. Even in her worst nightmares, she could not imagine the journey ahead.
Prison transport vans are outfitted with interior bars or cages; the rear cargo area where the prisoners are held usually has no windows and relies on ventilation from an inadequate cooling system with few vents and unpredictable service. Transport vans do not have toilets or beds. Medical services are not provided, and prisoners are commonly deprived of medications. Food is in limited supply and water, rationed. There is no contact with the outside world – no way to reach family, friends or even your attorney. Prisoners disappear on a long, lonely road that intersects on American highways yet goes entirely unnoticed.
When Sandra describes how she was handcuffed, she could be describing a medieval torture device. Sandra’s wrists were first handcuffed. Sandra’s feet were then shackled. On long transport trips, handcuffs often cut into the skin, causing circulation problems. Long trips with rough metal cuffs rubbing against the skin cause chafing or sores. And if that was not enough – like Sandra is the Incredible Hulk who could rip out of chains at any time?!? – her hands are then secured to her feet with another chain. Sandra says she was forced to assume a “squatted down position”. Imagine being forced to remain in that position for 12-16 hours a day, unable to stretch or move.. sleep is nearly impossible. That is what Sandra endured.
But shackles and chains for this petite, former beauty queen whose booking records note she is all of 112 pounds and stands all of 5 feet tall is not enough.. because Sandra was then placed into what she calls a “dog cage”. All of this because she fought to protect her children from abuse against a family court system that ignored their cries for help and put the children in harm’s way. Some may call Sandra a criminal but it is clear that only a mother who truly loves her children would make such great sacrifices for their well-being, even risking her life for them.
Sandra says about prison transport, “I don’t know how many states we hit”.The van criss-crossed across the country – “from Florida up to Georgia down to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, over to Dallas , Oklahoma back to Kansas, Missouri, back up to.. I hit so many states…” When the van stopped at a jail, Sandra was booked, meaning her mugshot was taken and she was temporarily assigned a cell. A trail of mugshots exists to document this horrific trip. Once Sandra’s beautiful face graced glamour shots and public events, the toll the transport has taken on her can be seen in her tired eyes and pale complexion, she is barely hanging on.
Almost the entire trip, Sandra remained shackled and shoved into a dog cage. David Rucki’s own dogs were given better treatment that Sandra… his use of the legal system to pummel his ex-wife is more effective at inflicting damage than the bruises he used to leave on her. And if the legal system were not enough of a threat, Sandra was placed on transport with the “worst of the worst” – rapists, murdered, lifelong criminals, whose last breath of fresh air would be experienced on the shuffled walk between the transport van and the big house.
Prison transports are known for lengthy trips, where prisoners may spend sometimes up to 12-16 hours per day on the road, in confines. Sandra pleaded with the guards to be let out of the dog cage. She could barely move so she used her voice to reach beyond the cage. Sandra pleaded with the guards to look her name up on the internet, to visit websites (the same sites David Rucki is trying to shut down!) and research her story. Sandra hoped that if the guards knew about her story they would know that she is not dangerous criminal, not convicted of any crime, and perhaps would relent. The drivers did look Sandra up. And after reading more about Sandra they said “something is not right here” and “they lightened up on me a bit – a bit”.
Fears for the Future
It took almost 3 weeks for Sandra to arrive back to Minnesota on the prison transport from Florida. What kept her strong in the darkest of times is memories of her children, and the love she has for them.
In June 2017, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the nation’s largest prison transport company, Prisoner Transportation Services due to allegations of prisoner abuse. According to Business Insider,”Since 2012, at least five inmates have died on PTS vans from alleged medical neglect. Since 2000, another two dozen people have been killed or seriously injured in more than 50 crashes on private extradition vehicles nationwide. “ Justice Department probes alleged abuses on prison transport vans
The threat that Dakota County will issue another warrant hangs over Sandra’s head, like a noose, every day. Laws have been routinely broken in the Grazzini-Rucki case and there would be no way for Sandra to protect herself. In the darkest of and held in a jail until the gates of hell to a prison van open, and she is subjected to another degrading transport… a journey she may not survive.
Sandra has vocally expressed in interviews, that she will continue to fight for justice until her children are safe, for them she would risk her life.
Prison Transport Sources: