Judge Denies Mother Contact With Her Children
The case of Sandra Sue Grazzini-Rucki and her children.
Dakota County Judge David Knutson issued an order on September 7, 2012 that denies the mother of five children any contact with her children. He ordered mother to vacate her home of 15 years on the same day as the court order. Mother was able to take only a suitcase of her clothes. She was forced to leave her home and all of her possessions which she has never been able to recover. She was denied any due process. She was told she would be arrested and jailed if she refused to follow Judge Knutson’s orders. She now is homeless, has no vehicle, no bank accounts, no credit cards, and no assets other than her clothing. She has only her job as an airline flight attendant which she has held for approx 27 years while taking leaves to care for her children. As a professional flight attendant, she is routinely tested for alcohol and substance abuse. All her independent psychological evaluations are completely normal.
Her wages are garnished 25% for payment of past marital taxes even though mother has been left destitute with prior use of MN Care Insurance and food stamps after the divorce. Her ex-husband’s income is in excess of $200,000 per month and he retains all of the marital property. There was no hearing or any finding that she ever hurt or abused any of her five children in any way.
The five children, ages 10, 11, 13, 14, and 16, were ordered to live in the custody of two aunts. The four youngest children have lived with their maternal aunt for almost six months without support from anyone. The children have not had or been allowed any contact with their mother except for one three-hour heavily supervised visit in late December, 2012. They have not had any contact with their father who has physically and sexually abused them and who hate him. In court on February 26, 2013, this aunt said she no longer is willing to provide for the children. The oldest child, a boy 16 years old, now lives in the former home of his mother with his father, who we believe a car and other expensive gifts in an attempt to buy the boy’s loyalty. The four youngest children no longer have a relationship with their oldest brother.
Why did all of this happen? In late August, 2012, Judge Knutson appointed an “expert” to make a recommendation on the parenting of the children. This expert, Dr. Paul Reitman, met with four of the children for about thirty minutes. He conducted no other evaluations, tests, or analysis. Yet, on the basis of this meeting, he issued his report that the problem was caused by the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a condition of the mother. Parental Alienation has been rejected by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association. They believe it to be unsubstantiated. In fact, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCI) has published guidelines stating that “The theory positing the existence of ‘PAS’ has been discredited by the scientific community.”
Nevertheless, Judge Knutson appointed another expert, Dr. James Gilbertson, to attempt to re-unify the children with their abusive father. He said he would “reprogram” the children to like their father—he saw them 3 times in 6 months. This failed leading to the February 26, 2013 hearing. At this hearing, Dr. Gilbertson arranged for the children to appear before Judge Knutson in a conference room. Judge Knutson listened to the children’s short statements and told them he was going to issue orders that they had to follow. The transcript of this meeting has been ordered. The mother has requested information from Gilbertson and Reitman such as appointment dates, payment history, and other documents, but these have been denied by the practitioners saying they are protected by the judge and do not need to follow the guidelines of their respective professional organizations. Judge Knutson has not allowed the opinions of any other professionals to be heard.
The four youngest children will now be homeless. They begged to be with their mother. Their lives have been seriously disrupted. The Guardian ad Litem (GAL), Julie Friedrich, initially agreed that they belonged with their mother. Her story has now changed. She told the children that everything had been given to their father, and that their mother was homeless and without a vehicle. (The children reported this information to their mother at the late December 2012 meeting.) Ms. Friedrich also informed the children that their mother was in a mental institution, in jail, had moved to Philadelphia, PA, had been fired from her job, and that mother’s whereabouts were unknown. Julie also told the children that their mother didn’t want them and that she was gone. She informed Dr. Gilbertson that no further contact between mother and children should take place. Mother has not been allowed to schedule any further visits with her children despite numerous
The youngest child, 10 years old, has a significant medical condition that since his birth has been attended to solely by his mother. His complex medical issues include dealing with numerous doctors, surgeries, and providing day to day care and attention. Over the last 10 years mother has been the sole provider of his care along with his pediatrician, Dr. Tim Anderson, who in a letter and in a conversation with Guardian ad Litem Julie Friedrich, stated that his mother has been the sole provider of his medical care and in the best interest of the child he should be with his mother due to her history of care and knowledge of all factors relating to him. He is placed at risk without her care.
Mother was the beneficiary of a life insurance purchased by her father, now deceased, that provided $1.3 million for mother’s use. This total amount was exhausted in the spring of 2012 when mother was ordered by Judge Knutson to pay substantial amounts for attorney’s fees and debts that became hers as a result of the original judgment and decree. She is now Pro Se, unable to afford her own attorney.
When David Rucki failed to pay the court ordered child support, the state pulled his driver’s license. Judge Knutson wrote an order to child support and the state noting that David’s license was not to be revoked now or in the future. This ruling breaks state and federal law. His passport also was removed according to state and federal law due to child support arrears, yet Judge Knutson is attempting to over-rule federal law by reinstating his passport in defiance of the Dakota County District Attorney’s affidavit telling the judge that he cannot do this as he has no authority to over-rule the US Department of State. This is clearly our of Judge Knutson’s jurisdiction, yet he has scheduled a hearing on the matter.
Judge Knutson refused to order the normal parental arrangement where one parent has primary custody and the other parent visitation. He refused to follow Minnesota laws on parenting. He refused to give mother any due process or to follow court rules of procedure. There is no penalty or consequence to him because of his violation of law and other abuses. He is not accountable to anyone. Judge Knutson is actually a member of the Board of Judicial Standards where complaints against judges are sent! He has refused to remove himself from the case, denied a change of venue, and no action has been taken against him for the clear violations he has enforced. A letter of complaint about Judge Knutson’s actions to the Board of Judicial Standards from concerned citizens in the Burnsville, Lakeville, and Eagan area had no effect whatsoever. Clearly, this needs to be changed. There needs to be legislative oversight of the judiciary.
Sandy Grazzini-Rucki was recently able to hire an attorney with the financial help of a close friend. Sandy retained a local attorney from the MacDonald Lawfirm in Minneapolis Minnesota. Link to pdf download of a scathing and impressive memorandum written by her attorney on behalf of Sandy and her children. LINK: MacDonald Lawfirm 90-3345
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