Sandra Grazzini-Rucki was sentenced last week to nearly eight months in prison for hiding her teenage daughters, Samantha and Gianna Rucki, on a horse ranch for two years following a contentious custody battle with her ex-husband.
But before she went to jail, Grazzini-Rucki took out a harassment restraining order against one reporter who dogged her case from the beginning, and helped police track down the missing girls.
Michael Brodkorb, a MinnPost reporter who independently runs Missing in Minnesota – a blog tracking every development in the case of the Rucki sisters – made it no secret that he sided with the girls’ father, David Rucki.
In return, Grazzini-Rucki accused Brodkorb of behaving more like a stalker than a reporter. She took out a restraining order against him on September 12, claiming that he tailed her and her attorneys as they drove around town, took unwanted pictures of her outside of court, and incited readers of his blog to send her threatening messages.
Judge John McBride signed off on the order the same day, barring Brodkorb from covering Grazzini-Rucki’s sentencing.
Last Thursday, Brodkorb got the chance to defend himself in court. His lawyer, Nathan Hansen, argued that Grazzini-Rucki purposely shopped her harassment order to a district court that was less familiar with her history than others.
Minnesota law says that Grazzini-Rucki could file for a restraining order in the county where she lives (unknown), the county where Brodkorb lives (Dakota), or the county where the alleged harassment occurred (also Dakota). Instead, Grazzini-Rucki filed in Washington County, where her lawyer Michelle MacDonald’s office is located.
MacDonald told the court that because Grazzini-Rucki is “homeless,” she had been living at the law office.
This wasn’t enough to convince Judge McBride that Grazzini-Rucki actually lived in Washington County.
“It is doubtful that [Grazzini-Rucki] ever established a ‘permanent home’ in her lawyer’s office,” he wrote in dismissing the harassment order. “Furthermore, the Court accepts Ms. MacDonald’s representation that [Grazzini-Rucki] is homeless. A person who is homeless, by definition, has no residence. It follows that [Grazzini-Rucki] does not have a residence in Washington County.”
Brodkorb celebrated the ruling on Twitter.
Brodkorb continues to cover the upcoming criminal trials of the other adults who are charged with helping Grazzini-Rucki hide Samantha and Gianna from their father.