The Kristin Ruggiero case is finally over. (Or at least I think it is. Apparently the DA is still investigating her on other charges.) Here‘s the latest (Union Leader, 8/20/10). She’s been sentenced to serve a term of 7-14 years in prison for lying to police, prosecutors and in court, all for the purpose of setting up her husband, Coast Guard Petty Officer Jeffrey Ruggiero.
Not surprisingly, it all started with a divorce and child custody case. Kristin was angry that Jeffrey wanted something to do with his children post-divorce, so she falsely accused him of “criminal threatening.”
While Jeffrey Ruggiero was being investigated, his ex-wife called him at all hours and taunted him over the phone, according to court testimony.
“She mocked him. She laughed at him. (She said) ‘I took all your money, I took your daughter and now I am going to take your career’,” Assistant County Attorney Jerome Blanchard said in court yesterday.
That gave her a leg up in the custody case and eventually, he was convicted, on her evidence alone, of a misdemeanor and released on bail pending sentencing.
But that wasn’t nearly enough for Kristin. She was enraged that Jeffrey hadn’t been jailed and that his career in the Coast Guard been ruined. So she upped the ante. She bought a cell phone in his name and started sending threatening messages from it to herself. She then went to police with “proof” that he’d violated the terms of his bail.
Police, however, saw through that scheme and arrested her and prosecutors charged her with multiple counts of falsifying evidence. While in jail and awaiting trial, Kristin kept scamming, but unfortunately for her, her calls were recorded by police and played at her sentencing hearing. Among other things, she asked her mother to find a doctor who would say she had been addicted to prescription medication. That would have allowed her to be sentenced to house arrest.
“I’m going to pull the mental health card, you know what I mean?” Ruggiero says during the call, which was played in court. “It has to be outpatient in the United States and I can live at home.”
Perhaps her stupidest move was to rejoice over the phone to her father about her judge’s bypass surgery.
“Dad, guess what? Judge McHugh had a quadruple bypass!” Ruggiero said during the phone call…
A few months later she was in the same judge’s courtroom weeping and begging for mercy. Judge McHugh seemed strangely unmoved. I wonder why.
Kristin Ruggiero has always seemed to me to be stupider than most people who try to game the family court system, but still her case is instructive. As we now can see clearly, she was a liar from the start. But what we can also see is that if she’d confined her lying to family court, she’d be walking around free to this day and have custody of their daughter. Meanwhile Jeffrey would probably have been dishonorably discharged from the Coast Guard and have at best very limited supervised visitation with his child.
So what went “wrong” for Kristin Ruggiero? She got the police and criminal courts involved and they, unlike family court, have the odd habit of demanding a little thing called ‘evidence.’ Assistant DA Jerome Blanchard
said Ruggiero’s folly came because claims in criminal court had to be backed up — unlike in family court where she made repeated claims about ex-husband’s behavior.
“Unfortunately for her, we’re not in family court anymore,” Blanchard said.
Fancy that; “claims in criminal court ha[ve] to be backed up.” Who’d’ve guessed?
And in making that statement, Mr. Blanchard said a mouthful. What he knows is what so many people, both inside and outside of the legal profession know as well – that claims of abuse made in family court don’t have to be “backed up,” i.e. by actual evidence. That in turn is why countless attorneys over the years have spoken out about the blatant misuse of DV claims in custody matters. How many lawyers and litigants have to complain that false DV claims are often used to gain an advantage in custody cases before state legislatures do something about the practice?
For that matter, why don’t judges put a stop to it? There’s no law anywhere that prevents a judge from holding an evidentiary hearing to determine the validity of a claim of DV made in his/her court. The scam is well known to all, it’s commonly used and yet little is done by anyone to put a stop to it.
Think of everything that would have been saved if the family court had simply demanded that Kristin Ruggiero prove her claim against Jeffrey. Think further about the effects of that requirement of proof being known by attorneys to be standard practice. Kristin Ruggiero would never have made her false claims; the custody case would have been decided on the evidence and the police and criminal courts would never have gotten involved. But that’s not what happened because Kristin Ruggiero knew that she could lie with impunity in her custody case. Her mistake was to assume that criminal courts are as lax as family courts.
That laxness leads to countless cases in which parents (mostly fathers) lose their children and children lose their fathers, and all because family courts refuse to demand that little thing called proof.
Jerome Blanchard’s words, casually said, should shame every family court judge in the nation.