Our old friend Kristin Ruggiero was back in the news yesterday here (Manchester Union Leader, 1/20/11).
Kristin is the woman who made multiple allegations of criminal behavior against her ex-husband, Jeffrey Ruggiero during an acrimonious divorce and custody case. Jeffrey was jailed because of them. He also lost his job as a chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Jeffrey steadfastly maintained his innocence saying that Kristin had made the whole thing up. Police in New Hampshire eventually figured out that he was telling the truth, freed him and charged her with 12 felony counts for lying to police and prosecutors.
At the time, Kristin pronounced herself eager to get to court and clear her name. Well, one out of two ain”t bad, I suppose. She got to court, but didn”t exactly clear her name. She was convicted of all charges and is currently doing 7-14 years in prison because of it.
At her sentencing, the judge called Kristin a “pathological liar.’ Maybe he was a trifle nettled at her because telephone recordings had revealed her gleefully anticipating the judge”s death or disability due to a serious illness that required surgery.
Whatever the case, now prosecutors have leveled a hefty 21 more charges (17 of them felonies) at Kristin Ruggiero and others, including her mother, Elizabeth McDonald. Those allege she committed perjury and witness tampering during the first trial. If this gets to be a habit, she may be in court forever.
But there”s a back story to all this – child custody. Because of her original false allegations of abuse, Jeffrey Ruggiero had his parental rights terminated and his child placed first Kristin”s care, and later in that of her mother, the same Elizabeth McDonald who”s just been indicted.
Jeffrey and his wife have been fighting an uphill battle to reverse the termination of his parental rights. Now, you might think that would be easy given the fact that they were originally terminated based on fraud that has now been proven beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court. Not so.
Being in the Coast Guard (yes, he got his job back) means Jeffrey isn”t present to assert his parental rights and try to reacquire custody of his daughter. So that job has fallen to his wife and is made more difficult by his absence.
It”s been almost three years since Kristin made her original false claims that got Jeffrey separated from his children. It”s been a year and a half since she was first criminally indicted and eight months since she was convicted. But Jeffrey and his wife still haven”t succeeded in getting his daughter back. They”ve had a rough go of it.
But now maybe the worm has turned.
Ruggiero, 35, was indicted by a Rockingham County grand jury, as were her mother, Elizabeth McDonald of East Kingston, her boyfriend, Brendan Bisbee, also of East Kingston, and her ex-brother-in-law Daniel Ruggiero of Enfield, Conn.
Why”s that important? Because McDonald has been the caregiver to Jeffrey”s daughter all this time. In other words, but for her, Jeffrey might well have custody of his little girl. Now she”s been indicted and possibly looking at a long stretch behind bars herself.
So, given a choice between Jeffrey, the girl”s natural father, a man against whom there is literally nothing bad to be said, and Kristin and her mother, one of whom is a proven felon and the other is charged, hopefully the family court will finally return his daughter to Jeffrey”s care.
For all those who haven”t gotten the picture yet, let me be clear:
Jeffrey was originally charged with three misdemeanors and he was denied all contact with his daughter. When Kristin was indicted on 12 felony and one misdemeanor counts, she still had custody of the girl. When Kristin was convicted and sentenced on all counts, she still had contact with the child. Kristin is now indicted on 17 more felonies and four more misdemeanors and she still has contact with the girl. Elizabeth McDonald has now been indicted on three felony and one misdemeanor counts (remember that she’s not even the girl”s parent) and still has custody of Jeffrey”s daughter.
Jeffrey Ruggiero is a thoroughly decent man serving in our nation”s armed forces. He has done no wrong. On the contrary, he has had grave wrongs done to him.
We”ll see what happens. But honestly, if this case doesn”t show the hoops fathers have to jump through just to be parents to their children, then nothing does.