Hastings, Minnesota October 22, 2016- Despite being incarcerated, a convicted felon, and on public assistance Sandra Grazzini-Rucki has been ordered to pay nearly one thousand dollars a month in child support.
The order handed down by Dakota County Minnesota Judge Maria Pastoor on October 13, 2016, calls for Grazzini-Rucki to pay $975 per month.
Judge Pastoor issued the order even though Grazzini-Rucki is currently incarcerated in the Dakota County jail serving her sentence which began on September 21, 2016, for her role in hiding her two daughters for approximately two and a half years.
The payments are suspended while Grazzini-Rucki is incarcerated.
Pastoor based her child support order on a monthly income of $4,143, her income in 2014 as a flight attendant, however Grazzini-Rucki has been unable to work and on public assistance since being incarcerated in October 2015.
“Based on her recent work history and occupational qualifications, she has the skills and ability to work as a flight attendant,” according to Pastoor’s order.
Grazzini-Rucki testified that while she was not technically terminated she was unable to work because she required a passport which the court kept as a condition of her release while awaiting trial; Grazzini-Rucki was also forced to attend numerous hearings for her criminal trial as well as child custody hearings while awaiting trial.
That explanation was not good enough for Pastoor, “The mother has not rebutted the assumption that she can work full-time.”
Having been convicted of six felonies, it’s unlikely she could continue working as a flight attendant; while there is no standard policy on criminal convictions, most airlines run a background check and the overwhelming media attention of this case has made Grazzini-Rucki toxic.
Adding to Grazzini-Rucki’s troubles, her trial judge has ordered her to serve her sentence by serving thirty days right away and another fifteen days each of the next six years on the anniversary of her two daughters being found, November 17; Grazzini-Rucki had her request to execute her sentence- or serve it all at once- denied by her trial judge, Karen Asphaug.
As such, Grazzini-Rucki would have to find work which would allow her to take fifteen days off to serve her sentence each of the next six years.
“The father testified credibly he has no ownership interest in any company.” Judge Pastoor stated in the order.
That’s a far cry from the multi-millionaire owner of a trucking business David Rucki presented when he was featured on ABC’s “20/20” when their story was told in April 2016.
Pastoor said David Rucki earned $5,000 per month; Michelle MacDonald, Grazzini-Rucki’ attorney, said Rucki transferred ownership of his businesses to his sister, Tammi Love, who then issued paychecks back to him.
Rucki currently lives in the affluent suburb of Lakeville and it’s not clear how he can afford to live there with five children making $5,000 monthly.
The child support order also states that Rucki is receiving assistance under Title IV D and medical assistance.
The Dakota County Prosecutor, James Backstrom, declined to address the dichotomy directly stating only: “Pursuant to federal law individuals can apply for and receive child support services. There is no means test. Most parents have to pay fees for these services.”
But Pastoor’s order makes it clear that Rucki is receiving means tested assistance: “The Father has assigned his right to medical support because of receipt of public assistance in the form of medical assistance.”
Backstrom did not respond to a follow up email when asked to explain how a multi-millionaire could qualify for public medical assistance.
Marybeth Schubert, the Communications Director for Dakota County, also did not respond to an email for comment.
Grazzini-Rucki’s probation calls for her to follow all family court orders, meaning any child support arrearages could land her in jail again.
Grazzini-Rucki was convicted only after nearly all the evidence she planned to present in support of her affirmative defense- meaning she hid her daughters to protect them from danger- was disallowed by Asphaug; evidence disallowed by Asphaug included David Rucki’s long criminal record, Child Protective Services reports including one by her son Nico in which he claimed David Rucki stuck a gun to his head when he was eight, and four orders for protection taken out against David Rucki.
Emails to Beau Berentsen, Minnesota Court public affairs officer, and Lisa Elliott, David Rucki’s attorney, were left unreturned.
David Rucki did not respond to a voice mail for comment.
Sandra Grazzini-Rucki is due to be released on October 21, but then will go back to jail on November 17 for another fifteen days and spend another fifteen days in jail for another five years on the anniversary of her daughters being found.
Pastoor temporarily set Grazzini-Rucki’s child support temporarily at $50 while she awaited sentencing in August; Pastoor’s order allows for a reassessment after she is released.
Disclosure: The author, Michael Volpe, has recently released a book on this case Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the World’s Last Custody written with Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney, Michelle MacDonald.