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As exposé book rolls out, Michelle MacDonald’s suit stalls

By the time Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald’s defamation suit commences in Ramsey County District Court, the defendants will have released a book divulging new details about her alleged role in covering up two Lakeville children’s 2013 disappearance.

“The Girls Are Gone,” by writers Michael Brodkorb and Allison Mann, is scheduled for release on Oct. 23 on the Minneapolis-based Wise Ink Creative Publishing imprint.

The timing wasn’t supposed to work out that way. A dismissal motion by Brodkorb and Allison was initially scheduled for Sept. 10 before Ramsey County District Court Judge Richard H. Kiley, Jr.

But late last week came word that a hearing was being postponed to Oct. 29. Because of a scheduling conflict with MacDonald’s attorney, Karlowba R. Adams Powell, it won’t happen then, either. Powell, will be out of town at the end of October, MacDonald said.

On Wednesday, the court rescheduled it to Nov. 1. If the plaintiffs can’t make that hearing, they’ll have to explain their reasons to the court, Brodkorb said Wednesday. “It will then be up to the judge,” he said.

Like everything about the lawsuit, even routine postponements are subject to intensive finger-pointing. Brodkorb says that up to now, Powell has failed to answer correspondence or otherwise respond to requests to reschedule the motion hearing.

But MacDonald said the opposite is true. Her attorney received no notice from defendants about any postponements, she said. “There has been no notice, no accommodation for this hearing,” MacDonald said Wednesday morning. “We don’t even know anything about it.”

Brodkorb said his lawyer sought postponement in light of the case’s dismissal in Dakota County District Court. In what MacDonald’s attorney has described as a clerical error, the case was simultaneously filed in Dakota and Ramsey counties. It was later tossed out in Dakota County in favor of Ramsey County proceedings.

“Our attorney is taking a more expansive approach to getting the suit dismissed,” Brodkorb said. “It’s just a recalibrated approach to dismissing the suit.”

New details

Brodkorb and Mann’s book has nothing to do with MacDonald’s defamation suit against them—at least not yet.

“We fully expect Ms. MacDonald to engage in legal action [related to the book],” Brodkorb said Wednesday. “I think one thing that we have seen in the lawsuit she has filed is that their tactics are meant to stall and delay.”

The suit stems from Brodkorb-Mann team’s work on the independent MissingInMinnesota.com website, which has persistently posted exposé-styled pieces about the case of Sandra Grazzini-Rucki. The woman’s children went missing for 944 days beginning in 2013. MacDonald was Grazzini-Rucki’s attorney at the time that Gianna and Samantha Rucki disappeared. They were later found on a rural horse ranch near Herman, Minn.

Grazzini-Rucki and Dede Evavold both were convicted on six felony counts related to the disappearance and subsequent cover-up. While criminal prosecutions ended two years ago, the site never stopped publishing.

MacDonald’s suit alleges defamation on three counts. It claims Brodkorb and Mann’s online stories incorrectly described her as a “person on interest” in the kids’ disappearance. It alleges that the duo used a “false image” of MacDonald on the website, which they falsely characterized as a booking photo. And it charges that Brodkorb falsely reported that MacDonald is a convicted drunken driver.

Minnesota Lawyer confirmed that Lakeville police initially did consider MacDonald a person of interest in the children’s disappearance. It also obtained from the Dakota County Sheriff’s office a copy of the photo the writers published and confirmed that county jail officials, at least, consider it a booking photo.

Brodkorb has denied he ever publicly identified MacDonald as a drunken driver. He has reported only what is true, he said: MacDonald was pulled over and charged on suspicion of DUI following a 2013 traffic stop in Rosemount. But she was convicted only of refusing to submit to a sobriety test, obstructing the legal process and speeding.

“The Girls Are Gone” will weigh in at between 400 and 500 pages. It will divulge details about the case not previously disclosed in MissinginMinnesota’s reporting, Brodkorb said. Those include details about why law enforcement suspected MacDonald knew more about the disappearance than she admitted, Brodkorb said.

The book also will include interviews with both girls, who are now over age 18, Brodkorb said.

“This is not a book about Michelle MacDonald,” Brodkorb said. “This is the story about how two kids disappeared, what the forces were that kept those kids hidden and some of the adults who were involved in the conspiracy to hide the truth. Ms. MacDonald plays a role in that.”

He said between 80 and 90 percent of the book’s contents was never previously published on the website.

The book, which has been in the works since early 2017, became available for preorders Sept. 13. It will go on sale in local bookstores and other retail platforms on Oct. 23.

Brodkorb was a longtime GOP activist and once served as deputy chair of the state GOP. He was state Senate GOP communications director under Minority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, and Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo. That latter job ended in scandal in 2012.

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