Rude trial begins with jury selectionPublished 7:26am Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The trial for on-leave Austin police Cpt. Curt Rude began Monday in Rochester, nearly two years after he allegedly took prescription drugs from the APD evidence room.
Much of the day in court was spent questioning 22 prospective jurors, with defense attorney Peter Wold pressing them on things ranging from speeding tickets to family members who are cops — all in an effort to determine if they are able to objectively handle a case involving a police officer.
Tuesday, state prosecutor Ross Leuning will further question the prospective jurors, and the final group should be sworn in during the morning. Testimony is also expected to begin Tuesday, which could include members of the APD, such as chief Paul Philipp.
Both sides are aiming to have their cases wrapped up by Thursday — Leuning is leaving for active duty Friday and requested to have arguments done before then.
Rude is accused of taking two bottles of the painkiller OxyContin from the APD evidence room on Nov. 6, 2007 — the same day he was elected to the Austin School Board, a position he still holds.
According to a criminal complaint, Rude allegedly entered the evidence room that afternoon looking for something when a decorative ax caught his eye.
While looking at the ax, Rude noticed two bottles of OxyContin labeled “Mark Johnson” nearby.
Johnson, a reporter at KAAL-TV who died of an OxyContin overdose in 2007, was a close friend of Rude’s.
The complaint states that Rude admitted to taking the bottles from the room. Rude also said he thought he did so because he felt “troubled” by Johnson’s death.
Rude is charged with felony theft and felony fifth-degree drug possession. He also faces a gross misdemeanor for allegedly interfering with property in official custody.
Rude pleaded not guilty to all counts in early 2008.
Because of Rude’s prominent status in Austin, the trial was moved to Olmsted County court in Rochester as both sides were concerned with getting a fair and impartial hearing in Mower County.
On Monday, the concern for an impartial trial came to the front again, as prospective jurors were given a questionnaire regarding their knowledge of the relatively high-profile case.
Those that recalled newsstories on Rude in recent months or knew of the case from other sources were questioned separately by Judge Kevin Lund and both attorneys.
Based on their answers to the questionnaire and to questions regarding their experiences with police officers, some prospective jurors could be dismissed Tuesday.
Lastly Monday, Lund addressed a few motions in the case before testimony begins.
He will preliminarily allow both sides to discuss issues relating to APD policies, though he said he will be careful to steer those in the courtroom away from reaching conclusions on whether Rude violated any — that would be a civil matter, Lund said.
However, the judge said he will not allow Rude’s negative drug test into evidence for the time being.
The test shows that Rude did not use OxyContin, but Lund said he did not think the information was relevant because Rude was not charged with using or abusing the drug.