Red Herring Alert

There's something fishy going on!

Minnesota Teacher-Student Sexual Relationships

Dakota Co. Attorney James C. Backstrom

 

”Quite frankly, it should be a crime,” said County Attorney Backstrom.  He pushed to change the law after a similar case nearly a decade ago.

In light of the new cases, he says he will once again encourage lawmakers to make teacher-student sexual relationships illegal, regardless of the student’s age.

“I’ll raise this issue again with legislators here in Dakota County and hopefully get the bill introduced again next session, Backstrom said. “I think it’s worth another try.”

KARE 11 Investigates: Teacher-student sex not always illegal in Minnesota

Lou Raguse, KARE 10:22 PM. CDT October 04, 2017

BURNSVILLE, Minn. – A county prosecutor is calling for a change in Minnesota law – to make it illegal for teachers to have sexual contact with high school students, regardless of their age.

Currently, it’s not a crime in Minnesota for a teacher to have sexual relations with a student who is at least 18 years old.

And recent cases reviewed in a KARE 11 investigation, raise questions about how Minnesota holds teachers accountable if they do have sex with their students.

In some cases, KARE 11 learned state education officials won’t even investigate.

“It just eats at you, because you put this trust in these people to protect them,” said the mother of one student.

Continue Reading: http://www.kare11.com/news/kare-11-investigates-teacher-student-sex-not-always-illegal-in-minnesota/480903753


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Media promotes stories that create societal outrage and the solution is always more legislation and initiatives, tougher laws, more law enforcement, more training, etc. None of these solutions make a meaningful difference in preventing sex offenses and really just appease our need to feel that we are protecting children and that our legislature is addressing the issue.

State laws regarding “consensual sex” (referred to generally as statutory rape laws) prohibit adult-child relationships but define childhood differently, depending upon the state.

What is the Minnesota Age of Consent?

The Minnesota Age of Consent is 16 years old. In the United States, the age of consent is the minimum age at which an individual is considered legally old enough to consent to participation in sexual activity. Individuals aged 15 or younger in Minnesota are not legally able to consent to sexual activity, and such activity may result in prosecution for statutory rape.

Minnesota statutory rape law is violated when a person has consensual sexual intercourse with an individual under age 16, although it is raised to 18 when the offender is an authority figure. If the younger party is 13-15, their partners must be no more then 2 years older, and children under 13 may only consent to those less than 36 months older.

Age of consent laws are tied into other statues such as those of rape and sexually assaulting and raping somebody is already a crime.

A very wise saying. Those who expect a new law to magically make all that nasty bad behavior disappear fool themselves. You can change said behavior by several means, but making laws is not one of them.

“There is no simple fix to the devastating problem of sex abuse. Instead of politically popular measures that make no difference we need to turn our attention and resources to ways of addressing the epidemic of sex abuse that, while perhaps not as politically popular, will actually work so that more potential victims can be spared.” Deborah Jacobs, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

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Appellate Briefs Reveal More Shocking Behavior in Rucki Case

Get the Down and Dirty from Dakota County …

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

“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.

(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 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)

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.

(Prosecutor 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.”

 

Backstrom Backlash

Backlash Against Backstrom in the Aftermath of Grazzini-Rucki Verdict

barbwireheart

Local Citizens Rally Support for Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, Express Disgust with Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom…

(July 28, 2016) Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was found guilty of six counts of felony deprivation of parental rights. This occurred after substantial amounts of evidence were suppressed by Judge Karen Asphaug, and withheld from the jury.

Judge Karen J Asphaug

Judge Karen J Asphaug

After the verdict was read, Sandra was taken into custody. A strange move considering that Sandra had been released on her own recognizance (Feb. 24th) after the original $1 million bail was dropped.Sandra  poses no threat to society, and there are no indications that she is a flight risk. She has no prior criminal history, has remained law abiding, and has attended all court dates. Despite this, bail was set at $100,000 without conditions or $50,000 with conditions. Attorney Stephen Grigsby said it is “incomprehensible” how the court could increase her bail.

Citizens from Dakota County and surrounding areas expressed disgust at County Attorney James Backstrom and his mishandling of the case. The citizens showed up at the courthouse in a strong show of solidarity to give donations to contribute towards Sandra’s bond, so that she would be released from jail.

There were comments heard among the crowd – they were upset with James Backstrom that he exploited Grazzini-Rucki case for political reasons and that the children were subjected to unnecessary trauma.One anonymous comment, “The county used this case to try to make a point, and exploited the children.Another concern was that Dakota County exaggerated the Grazzini-Rucki case, and incurred unnecessary expense with tax payer dollars.

County Attorney James Backstrom

County Attorney James Backstrom

Due to their efforts, and support, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was released on bond. Sentencing is scheduled for September 21st.

Jury Deliberations

Dakota Co. Courthouse

The jury started deliberations in the Sandra Grazzini-Rucki case at 1:00 pm today. No verdict reached. Will resume deliberations on Thursday, July 28th at 9:00 am.

At the beginning of this trial, a sign was posted on the courtroom door that stated:

In order to ensure a fair trial, the Court hereby issues the following ORDER:

1. All electronics devices must be powered off, or subject to confiscation for the length of the trial.
2. No audio or video recording of any form.
3. No person may wear clothing or accessories that are designed to influence the jury.
4. Any person who diisplays facial expressions or utters verbal outbursts that may influence the jury or witnesses will be removed from the courtroom.
5. Any person who violates this order will be removed from the courtroom and may be found in contempt of court and subject to the penalties therefor.
Signed by Judge Aspaugh

Okay, let’s recap some of the fairness that Dakota County has demonstrated in 19HA-CR-15-2669 State of Minnesota vs Sandra Grazzini-Rucki.

  • Illegal withholding of evidence.
  • Wrongful arrest and imprisonment by US Marshals based on fabricated charges by Lakeville PD.  Charges: Assaultive  Felony – Fugitive- Kidnap Minor

Osceola County Uniform Charging AffidavitRisk Asssessment

  • Unfair chance to present a defense: All criminal charges against David Rucki were ruled inadmissable by Judge Karen Aspaugh at the beginning of the trial. David Rucki-Judge Knutson-Criminal Defense Matters. Today, Dakota County Assistant Attorney Kathryn Keena objected 4 times throughout the closing arguments of the defense. When questioned regarding reason, she stated “never mind.” Numerous other disruptive behaviors noted during the closing arguments: Keena ripping paper, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom shifting loudly in his seat (why is he even there?) and David Rucki leaving and returning to the courtroom. Sounds to me like they’re a little nervous,  so maybe the jury isn’t rigged after all?!
  • Collusion – where two persons enter into a deceitful agreement,usually secret, to defraud and/or gain an unfair advantage over a third party. David Rucki, Dakota Co. and media haven’t even pretended to maintain a discreet appearance in front of the public.

4bebc-brodkorb_rucki_love_elliot_donehower_19av-fa-11-1273_012616

It should also be noted that David Rucki was shaking hands with Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom in the court hallway today.  

  • Charge Stacking: The practice of charge stacking is a simple and terribly effective method for prosecutors looking to win cases. The technique entails finding as many possible criminal counts to “stack” against the defendant in order to strengthen the core case of the prosecution.This strategy is made wide open to prosecutors, because the main deterrent against stacking charges is the law of double jeopardy. Charge Stacking: Gambling with People’s Lives

UPDATE: Attached is the four-page amended criminal complaint against Sandra Grazzini-Rucki.  https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cods3kKUsAI86TB.jpg

It’s always been the State’s position that the girls didn’t run away.” Kathryn Keena Assistant Dakota County Attorney (Stated at the May 12th Contested Omnibus Hearing ~ State of MN vs. Doug and Gina Dahlen). 

Don’t change that dial. We’ll have more tomorrow!

Minnesota Exposed: “Tough on Crime” but Silent on Abuse (Grazzini-Rucki Case Update)

I’m the toughest on crime that ever lived, I make Elliott Ness look like nothing.  I think for some reason the authoritiehave dropped the ball on this case.” – per Ron Rosenbaum (Holding Court Podcast Thu, 22 October 2015) claims he is paraphrasing James Backstrom.

County Attorney James C. Backstrom

The Lakeville police have mishandled the investigation of the missing Rucki sisters – worked to cover up child abuse, and tainted the investigation with bias and misinformation. Innocent children are being punished for the actions of an abuser, and those who are charged with protecting them have failed to keep them safe.

 Ongoing Child Abuse Cover Up 

From the beginning, the Lakeville Police have failed to protect those victimized by David Rucki – Sandra and the children, the neighbors, and the public. Had the Lakeville Police properly intervened, the escalating behavior could have been prevented, and the children could have been spared the abuse they have suffered (and continue to suffer.)

 

Miles

Laura Miles GAL Coordinator

The Lakeville police are aware of multiple abuse allegations concerning the Rucki sisters made before their disappearance. NONE of these allegations were ever investigated by the police. The sisters had also attempted to run away in Sept. 2012, again because they did not feel safe.

The Rucki sisters also reported  abuse to numerous professionals, doctors, therapists, friends – and each time the family court professionals, under the jurisdiction of Judge Knutson, ignored or dismissed their cries for help. Even after being “recovered”, the Rucki sisters again stated to anyone who would listen, that they were afraid of their father, David Rucki, that he had abused them, and that they would run away if returned to his care. Instead of listening to their cries for help, the police and court system have chosen to listen to the abuser.

Judge David Knutson

Judge David Knutson

 

Dr. Paul Reitman, Clinical Psychologist

JFX

Julie Friedrich, GAL

 Rogue Drone – Detective Jim Dronnen Erases Report of OFP Violation

Image from sunthisweek.com

Image from sunthisweek.com

Det. Jim Dronen should have never been assigned to this case because of his past involvement with David Rucki.

In 2011, Det. Dronnen handled a case where Rucki was charged with an OFP violation. Dronnen had the charge not only dismissed but wiped completely off MNCIS.

Lakeville Appoints Det. Dronen to “Most Bizarre” Case

Det. Jim Dronnen began working on the case in 2014, and bragged that “the Rucki case was virtually the only one he worked on”. How is this possible? What about the violent crimes, unsolved cases and other threats to public safety? How can the Lakeville police direct one investigator to this case – and yet also fail to issue an Amber Alert or fail to do a local search for the missing sisters?

The Lakeville police also failed to contact Trish Van Pilsum, who interviewed the the girls for a story after they had run away. There was a crucial period of time to gather information that was totally ignored. Yet, at a later date, the Lakeville police had multiple conversations with Brandon Stahl and Michael Brodkorb of the Star Tribune…after the girls were missing for almost 2 years! What is the difference? The Star Tribune had aligned with the Lakeville police in covering up abuse, while Van Pilsum was exposing it.

The Lakeville police had mishandled previous reports of abuse made in connection to David Rucki, and needed to keep the allegations silent to avoid responsibility for their role in the escalating conflicts. In order for this cover-up to be successful, one party must be targeted a scapegoat. 

Just A “Very Sad Case…(of a) Nasty Divorce” or a High Profile Case for Lakeville?

Instead of correctly naming, and investigating the abuse, the Lakeville police have begun a disinfo campaign to say this case is really just a “high conflict” divorce issue.

Lakeville Police Chief Jeff Long says this case “is one of the most ‘bizarre’ cases he has seen throughout his 29-year career..” Keep in mind that Chief Long has investigated murder, rape and other serious crimes.. and yet we are to believe this is “the most bizarre”? 

The Lakeville police ignored the history of abuse, ignored documentation of abuse , and ignored the reason the Rucki sisters ran away. They stated they did not want to live in the care of paternal aunt Tammy Love, which is in itself may be an indicator of abuse. 

If the sisters did not run away due to abuse, what led up to this? According to Detective Dronnen,of the Lakeville Police Dept. “This is a very sad case that just shows how nasty divorce can be…When you have people that are just working so hard to win, it can just make things really, really nasty and there’s really no winners.” 

The police listened with a sympathetic ear to David complain about suing Sandra for the money in her family trust. What does that have to do with the missing Rucki sisters?

4bebc-brodkorb_rucki_love_elliot_donehower_19av-fa-11-1273_012616

 

 

 

Millionaire David Rucki then used money from the Wetterling Foundation to pay for all expenses for the Rucki sisters to be shipped, with a retired security officer so they would not run away again, on a plane to California for “intense therapy lasting 6-8 hours a day” to “de-program” the girls in a treatment facility, transcripts state, which was used by the Feds on numerous occasions.

David confided to an officer that “the MN Attorney General’s Office was conducting an investigation which involved the two missing girls in this case.”  According to David Rucki, the Attorney General’s Office is now involved in a missing persons case? 

The Lakeville police also utilized the resources of the BCA to collect DNA samples on the sisters as well as dental records. 

Why all of this effort? I would argue that Lakeville’s interest in this case was not so much in finding the Rucki sisters, but had to do more with this being a high-profile case that would increase the prestige of the police department. 

 A Pat on the Back for the Good ‘Ole Boys

IN 2015, Det. Dronnen was named officer of the year. And Det. Dronnen recently received a Medal of Commendation related to his work on the Rucki case (May 2016) . Mayor Matt Little personally praised him, saying, “If you continue to receive all that pressure, we’ve got your back and we’ll support you for the whole way.” Det. Dronnen is given one of the highest awards for law enforcement service, usually reserved for those who risk their lives in the line of duty, for one case that was supplemented with help from the Star Tribune?

If this is not a Red Herring Alert, I don’t know what one is! Stay tuned for updates on the Grazzini-Rucki case… 

Additional Sources:

Charges Filed Following Discovery of Missing Rucki Sisters

The Provocateur: David Rucki’s Greatest Hits (Michael Volpe)

Did 20/20 manipulate the Rucki story to hide abuse? (Michael Volpe)

(2011) Judge Knutson Orders Reunification Therapy with David Rucki and Children, while HRO in place

Lakeville detective receives medal of commendation

RĒ TALLY Ā SHEE ŌNN? (Det Dronnen)

Dakota County Discredited Again!

April 13, 2016 | UPDATED: 4 days ago

A former defense attorney jailed for weeks on the subsequently dropped charge that he set his girlfriend on fire — resulting in international news coverage, including a Taiwanese cartoon casting him as a maniac — has filed a federal lawsuit against the law enforcement agencies involved.

David John Gherity (Photo courtesy of Dakota County Sheriff's Office)
David John Gherity (Photo courtesy of Dakota County Sheriff’s Office)

The suit, filed in federal court in St. Paul last week on behalf of David J. Gherity, 62, and his then-girlfriend Joan Isabella, accuses Burnsville police and Dakota County Attorney’s Office of violating Gherity’s constitutional rights.

It also names two investigators who worked for the department during the 2014 case, along with chief Eric Gieseke and the Hennepin County Medical Center, where Isabella received treatment after the fire.

The suit alleges unlawful arrest and confinement and violation of the “protected liberty interest in his (Gherity’s) good name.” It further alleges the agencies hid evidence, manipulated witness statements and kept Gherity in jail knowing he was innocent.

Joseph E. Flynn, an attorney representing the city of Burnsville, responded, “We find the claims to be completely unfounded, and we will be addressing the specific claims with the actual facts in court.”

Flynn added that Gherity’s arrest was based on “compelling statements of the victim, forensic evaluation and interviews of numerous witnesses. The investigation was thorough, complete and timely, and we had probable cause to proceed with the arrest.”

The Dakota County attorney’s office declined comment.

In February 2014, firefighters were called to the Burnsville condominium where Gherity and Isabella lived, and found Isabella sitting at a table with burns on her head and face, neck and legs.

Gherity, 62, was charged in April 2014 in Dakota County District Court with first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree arson. He was arrested and held in jail from April 2 until May 30 of that year, according to the suit; charges against him were dropped on June 13.

Read More:http://www.twincities.com/2016/04/13/former-defense-attorney-sues-burnsville-police-dakota-county/

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