Deja vu: Michelle MacDonald running again for Minnesota Supreme Court

Michelle MacDonald, who was labeled a “person of interest” in the disappearance of missing children, filed to run again for the Minnesota Supreme Court, despite being on supervised probation as an attorney.

MacDonald filed to run against Justice Margaret Chutich, who was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to the Minnesota Supreme Court in March 2016.

She first attempted to file to run for the Minnesota Supreme Court under a new political party but was denied because judicial elections are nonpartisan.

Justice Margaret Chutich

MacDonald previously ran twice unsuccessfully for the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2014 and 2016.

MacDonald’s law license was just “conditionally reinstated” by the Minnesota Supreme Court in March, subject to her completion of the written portion of the Bar exam “on the subject of professional responsibility…”

She remains on supervised probation for two years with numerous conditions limiting her practice of law which could limit her ability to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court if elected.

The Associated Press reported that House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said “ugh” after MacDonald confirmed she was running for office again.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, MacDonald had $31.70 in her campaign bank account and debts of $8,825.12.

MacDonald’s law license was suspended for 60 days

The Minnesota Supreme Court suspended MacDonald’s law license for 60 days earlier this year and she remains on probation for two years in response to an attorney complaint filed against MacDonald in August 2016.

The conditions of MacDonald’s two-year probation included that she will be supervised by an attorney appointed by the Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility.

MacDonald is prohibited from engaging in “the solo practice of law,” and she must “work in a setting where she is in daily contact with, and under the direct supervision of another Minnesota licensed attorney.”

The complaint claimed MacDonald’s disorganization required the D’Costa trial to last longer than necessary, adding that MacDonald offered exhibits that “were a mess.”

Michelle MacDonald during her arrest on September 13, 2013

MacDonald was arrested during a court hearing in September 2013 while serving as Sandra Grazzini-Rucki’s family court attorney.

MacDonald’s direct responsibility for her conduct which led to her arrest was repeatedly mentioned in the order from the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The complaint filed against MacDonald focused on her behavior during family court proceedings involving Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and her legal representation of Joseph Francis D’Costa.

MacDonald has filed a petitioned with the U.S. Supreme Court to review the suspension of her law license.

MacDonald previously ran twice unsuccessfully for the Minnesota Supreme Court

In 2014, MacDonald was the Republican endorsed candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court against Justice David Lillehaug. MacDonald lost to Lillehaug by just 7 points — 53 percent to 46 percent in November 2014.

MacDonald tried to be endorsed again by the Republican Party of Minnesota after being recommended by the Republican Party of Minnesota Judicial Elections Committee. But the Republican Party of Minnesota decided not to endorse judicial candidates.

Her campaign continued without being endorsed, but MacDonald soundly defeated by Justice Natalie Hudson.

Court affirms ruling that MacDonald “knowingly violated” campaign law

In September 2017, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling from the Office of Administrative Hearings that MacDonald “knowingly violated” campaign law when she falsely claimed she was endorsed by a non-existent Republican organization during her 2016 campaign.

In December 2016, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) ruled against MacDonald and also imposed a $500 civil penalty for violating the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act.

The initial complaint against MacDonald was filed by Barbara Linert of Eagan and Steve Timmer of Edina.

MacDonald wrapped herself “like a mummy” in her jail cell

A federal civil rights lawsuit filed by  MacDonald in March 2015 against Dakota County stemming from her arrest while representing Sandra Grazzini-Rucki in a family court hearing was dismissed in September 2017.

MacDonald has filed an appeal with United State Court of Appeals.

It was during the custody hearing involving Grazzini-Rucki and her ex-husband, David Rucki, on September 12, 2013, that MacDonald took pictures in the courtroom which led to her being arrested.

MacDonald spent a portion of the trial representing Grazzini-Rucki while confined to a wheelchair after her refusal to walk back into the courtroom. MacDonald also refused to put on her shoes and glasses, or provide her legal name and address to law enforcement.

In March 2016, the court dismissed many of MacDonald’s claims including, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and retaliatory prosecution leaving only a few claims left to argue.

At that time, the court also found no grounds for claims of excessive force and state assault and battery “which related to her removal from the courtroom, removal of her personal effects, and placement in a wheelchair.”

Also dismissed were claims of equal protection, federal conspiracy, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and finally a claim by Thomas Shimota, MacDonald’s husband, for loss of consortium.

The federal lawsuit filed by MacDonald revealed details of her time in custody which MacDonald had not previously disclosed.

Because MacDonald raised claims regarding the conditions of confinement during her time in jail, the court was left to examine whether or not “Jail staff expressed intent to punish her” or if the removal of her mattress, toilet paper and bedding were “reasonably related to legitimate governmental objective.”

In the examination and subsequent order, the court stated that, according to an affidavit submitted in support of Dakota County’s motion, a deputy testified that “Jail staff removed her cell mattress because she ‘crawled underneath it’ and removed her toilet paper because she ‘used it to wrap herself from head-to-toe, like a mummy.’

The opinion continues, stating “[t]he Court notes that MacDonald’s behavior hindered the Jail from observing her well-being, which was especially important because MacDonald did not answer medical screening questions.” Based on this “legitimate purpose” for the removal of her mattress and toilet paper, the court determined there was no violation.

Perhaps the most revealing language in the memorandum can be found in a footnote at the bottom of the ninth page which detail claims by MacDonald regarding the conditions of confinement in Dakota County.

The court goes on to detail evidence set forth by Dakota County which went undisputed by MacDonald. The court states “many of these assertions also fail because Defendants offered undisputed evidence that contradict some of the claims and provided legitimate reasons justifying other conditions.”

These allegations include MacDonald’s assertion that she was “held in a ‘near-freezing’ cell all night.” This statement was contradicted by Defendants’ testimony evidence that the cell had a controlled thermostat which was set to 70 degrees and which Jail staff could not adjust and that MacDonald had been confined in a negative-pressure room “purely out of concern for her safety.”

Dede Evavold, Sandra Grazzini-Rucki

Both MacDonald’s client and former campaign manager convicted of felonies related to the disappearance of children

Grazzini-Rucki was found guilty in July 2016 on six felony counts of deprivation of parental rights related to the disappearance of her daughters, Samantha and Gianna Rucki. The sisters ran from their home on April 19, 2013, during a custody and divorce proceeding involving their Grazzini-Rucki and David Rucki.

The girls’ father, David Rucki was awarded full custody of all five of his children in November 2013, while two of his daughters remained missing. Rucki was reunited with his daughters days after they were found and they live with him at the family’s home in Lakeville.

Deirdre (Dede) Evavold, MacDonald’s former campaign manager, was convicted in September 2016 on six counts of felony deprivation of parental rights involving the disappearance of the Rucki sisters.

MacDonald’s campaign still owes Evavold $2,635.04 for public relations and mileage expenses.

MacDonald helped Evavold mask the extent of her role in the disappearance of Rucki sisters

MacDonald helped Dede Evavold during a media interview in 2016 to masking the extent of her full role in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters, based on a video published by Evavold.

In the video published by Evavold earlier this year, MacDonald instructs Evavold on how to correctly answer a question from the producer with ABC’s “20/20” after Evavold mistakenly admitted a key element of her criminal involvement in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters in an interview.

The video provides further evidence of MacDonald’s direct involvement in the propaganda machinery of Evavold and Grazzini-Rucki.

Video shows MacDonald and Evavold partying at GOP State Convention

A recently uncovered video shows MacDonald partying with her then campaign chair and manager Evavold at the 2014 Republican Party of Minnesota State Convention, during the time Evavold was actively concealing the whereabouts of two missing sisters.

At the time of this video, Evavold was working on MacDonald’s 2014 campaign for the Minnesota Supreme Court.

MacDonald labeled “person of interest” by law enforcement

MacDonald was labeled in April 2015 as a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department in the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki.  MacDonald refused to cooperate with the Lakeville Police Department’s investigation into her possible involvement in the disappearance of the sisters  – even after public statements from her that she would cooperate in the investigation. Her criminal defense attorney, Stephen Grigsby, said in 2015 that he would advise MacDonald to not speak with the Lakeville Police Department.

MacDonald was replaced as Grazzini-Rucki’s criminal defense attorney by Grigsby on November 18, 2015 – the same day the Rucki sisters were found by the Lakeville Police Department.

MacDonald disclosed law enforcement considered her a “suspect” in the disappearance of Rucki sisters

MacDonald later publicly disclosed law enforcement considered her a “suspect” in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters. MacDonald made this admission in a publication she co-authored

In the publication, MacDonald provides details on a phone conversation she had with Lieutenant Jason Polinski of the Lakeville Police Department. According to MacDonald, Polinski said she was no longer considered a suspect:

“Finally, he said I was no longer a suspect unless someone came in with evidence I participated in the girls’ disappearance and I appeared on early on with eighteen others.”

MacDonald also admits in her publication that she “suspected the only evidence they have is that I’ve been Sandra’s attorney throughout her ordeal.”

Despite MacDonald’s claims, it is her connection and involvement to both Evavold and Grazzini-Rucki which had made many ask an important question: What did Michelle MacDonald know about the disappearance of the Rucki sisters and when did she know it?

Please follow Missing in Minnesota on Twitter and Facebook for updates on MacDonald’s campaign.

Allison Mann contributed to this story.

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