Rude case heads to trial

Published 10:22 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The case for Curt Rude will be going to trial in Olmsted County after no settlement was reached during a conference Monday in Rochester.

Rude, 49, is charged with felony theft, drug possession and gross misdemeanor interfering with property in official custody.

An Austin School Board member on unpaid leave as captain of the Austin Police Department, Rude pleaded not guilty Jan. 7, 2008 in Mower County District Court to all charges. Since that day, all court dates have been held in Olmsted County because of a conflict with judges.

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The venue for Rude’s trial was also moved from Mower County to Olmsted County Monday at the request of his attorney, Terence Maus.

“A fair and impartial trial cannot be held in Mower County based on his position there with the police department and both on the school board,” Maus told Judge Kevin Lund.

Although a settlement was not planned during the conference, one could not be discussed because Eric Woodford, team lead attorney for Olmsted County, was sitting in for senior assistant county attorney Ross Leuning, who is handling the case.

“It’s not as if this matter has never been discussed by Mr. Leuning and Mr. Maus,” Woodford said of a settlement.

Maus said he expects the trial to last “as long as one week.”

Rude was charged after allegedly taking two bottles of the prescription drug Oxycontin from the APD evidence room the night of Nov. 6, 2007, the same day as his election to the school board. The drugs, which were in a barrel and to be disposed of later, belonged to his friend, the late Mark Johnson, a reporter at KAAL-TV who died of an overdose in 2007, about a year after his arrest for selling Oxycontin.

Lund questioned the long list of witnesses to be called during the trial, including Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson and the Reverend Marvin Repenski, a friend of Rude’s.

“This is the first I’ve seen of all these assorted witnesses,” Lund said.

Peterson, Maus said, will be called to explain “the importance of having policies that are clear;” Maus has contested that Rude did not violate any APD policy for handling evidence. A motion to dismiss the theft charge on that basis was denied last December.

According to Maus, Rude had an “emotional reaction” when visiting Repenski and learning that he is the new owner of Johnson’s dog.

Other witnesses, including Chief Deputy Mark May of the Mower County Sheriff’s Department and Sgt. Jeff Ellis and Sgt. Matt Holten of the APD will be called to testify about the “environment and the culture” of the evidence room at the APD, Maus said.

Various officers will address how they have “routinely in the past have taken drugs from the evidence room” that are no longer evidence for cases, Maus said.

Lund said the trial could be scheduled for as late as May or even July.