Michelle MacDonald’s testimony during a disciplinary hearing yesterday validated the claims made by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility that she filed a “factually false defamation lawsuit” against Michael Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota.
In March, the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to discipline Michelle MacDonald after determining MacDonald violated the conditions of her probation by which she can practice law and the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct governing licensed attorneys.
The petition was filed after the completion of a 21-month investigation into MacDonald, which began after Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann filed a formal complaint with the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility in June 2018 in response to MacDonald filing a lawsuit against Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota. The lawsuit filed by MacDonald was dismissed in March 2019 by a judge in Ramsey County.
Senior Judge E. Anne McKinsey was appointed in June by Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea as the referee to hear the petition for disciplinary action against MacDonald.
During the nearly 8-hour hearing, which was live-streamed by the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, MacDonald’s own testimony refuted many of the claims she made in her lawsuit against Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota.
MacDonald admits Brodkorb posted her booking photo
MacDonald filed her lawsuit in part over the publication of the booking photo from her arrest during a court hearing involving Sandra Grazzini-Rucki on September 12, 2013.
In her lawsuit, MacDonald claimed she filed a police report against Brodkorb on May 24 and June 11, 2018, regarding a booking photo published on Missing in Minnesota.
In response to a public data request, the Eagan Police Department provided a police report from May 24, 2018, but they could not find a report filed by MacDonald on June 11, 2018.
According to the police report from May 24, 2018, provided by the Eagan Police Department, MacDonald told police that Brodkorb took a picture of MacDonald in public, doctored it to look like a mugshot and uploaded it to a mugshot website.
The Eagan Police Department investigated MacDonald’s claims and found them unfounded. The report states: “the photo turned out to be a valid public booking photo.”
MacDonald admitted during her testimony at her disciplinary hearing that the booking photo published by Michael Brodkorb was the same booking photo taken by the Dakota Sheriff’s Office when she was arrested during a court hearing for Sandra Grazzini-Rucki, reversing claims she made in her lawsuit.
MacDonald claimed in her lawsuit that her booking photo had not been published, “or showed up on the internet” – which is not true.
The booking photo of MacDonald from her arrest in September 2013 is available through the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office and websites that document arrests.
Yesterday was the first time MacDonald admitted that Brodkorb had posted an actual booking photo and not a doctored photograph or “false image” as she claimed in her lawsuit.
MacDonald admits other media outlets labeled her a “person of interest”
In her lawsuit, MacDonald claimed she was “not aware” of any other media outlet reporting that she was labeled a “person of interest.”
During cross-examination by Keshini Ratnayake, Senior Assistant Director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility, MacDonald acknowledged that she was aware that another media outlet had published that she was labeled a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department into the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki, prior to filing her lawsuit against Brodkorb.
MacDonald testified yesterday that she was aware that a journalist for the Star Tribune published that she “was a ‘person of interest’ in the case.”
MacDonald sued Brodkorb over a tweet sent by a reporter with the Star Tribune
During the disciplinary hearing Wednesday, MacDonald was questioned about her claim in her lawsuit that Brodkorb defamed her by falsely reporting that she had been convicted of DUI and that the conviction had been upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
MacDonald stated Wednesday, as she had in her complaint against Brodkorb and Missing in Minnesota, that this claim was based entirely on a tweet published by Brodkorb on February 16, 2016.
Brodkorb denied sending this Tweet during his testimony Wednesday was consistent with an affidavit filed in Ramsey County District Court during ligation related to MacDonald’s complaint.
MacDonald and her attorney announced they had evidence of the tweet during the hearing. But it was later revealed that MacDonald was again presenting an exhibit she first filed with her appellate brief in the underlying litigation.
The tweet MacDonald displayed in the hearing was not authored or published by Brodkorb, but by David Chanen, a reporter for the Star Tribune.
The DWI conviction of former state Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald was upheld Tuesday by court of appeals.— David Chanen (@chanenstrib) February 16, 2016
Brodkorb further testified that he accurately reported that MacDonald was not convicted of a DWI and that if she had concerns about the tweet sent by Chanen, she should have addressed it with him.
Attorneys distance themselves from MacDonald’s lawsuit
Two attorneys who worked with MacDonald while she was on probation distanced themselves from MacDonald’s lawsuit in their testimony.
Bill Sieben, who served as MacDonald’s probation supervisor, testified that he didn’t review MacDonald’s lawsuit against Brodkorb, saying the lawsuit “seems political, not professional.”
Larry Frost had previously stated that he had not reviewed MacDonald’s lawsuit for “factual accuracy” and yesterday, he testified that it wasn’t his role to tell MacDonald if her lawsuit was “bad tactics.”
Despite facing discipline, MacDonald is a candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court
MacDonald is running against Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Thissen, who was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2018.
MacDonald was an unsuccessful candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2014, 2016, and 2018. In December, MacDonald started her fourth campaign for the Minnesota Supreme Court. Despite MacDonald facing severe discipline and the likely suspension of her law license, MacDonald can still run for the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Courts in Minnesota have interpreted the requirement in the Minnesota Constitution that judges “shall be learned in the law” as being licensed to practice law. Candidates for the Minnesota Supreme Court, Minnesota Court of Appeals, District Court of Minnesota, or county attorney are required to submit a copy of their law license when they file to run for office with the Minnesota Secretary of State.
Aside from being a repeated candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court, MacDonald notes on the website for her law firm that she “aspires to be a United States Supreme Court Justice.”
The disciplinary process against MacDonald will continue over the coming weeks, as Senior Judge McKinsey is scheduled to release her findings and recommendations for discipline by October 20, 2020.
MacDonald’s legal work examined in an award-winning true crime book
An examination of MacDonald’s legal work was detailed in the book, The Girls Are Gone which was released on October 23, 2018.
The book also includes new information about the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki and the adults who conspired to keep the missing sisters and the truth hidden.
The Girls Are Gone also explores the connection between MacDonald and two people convicted for their roles in the disappearance of the Rucki sisters: Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and Dede Evavold. MacDonald was labeled a “person of interest” by the Lakeville Police Department in the disappearance of Samantha and Gianna Rucki but did not cooperate in the investigation.
Since being released in October 2018, The Girls Are Gone has been a commercial and critical success. In April, Brodkorb and Allison Mann were awarded a 2019 Independent Publisher Book Award. The Kindle Edition of The Girls Are Gone has appeared on multiple “best seller” lists by Amazon. The Girls Are Gone is published by Wise Ink Creative Publishing.
Last October, Brodkorb and Mann released an audiobook of The Girls Are Gone, which was produced at Studio Americana. The Girls Are Gone is available for sale through numerous retailers in audiobook, paperback, and ebook.