'Wedding by proxy' for Hecker, Rowan

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2011 - 1:02 PM

With video camera and phone-in witnesses, the pair married Feb. 22.

Denny Hecker

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The Denny Hecker saga has turned from greed and avarice to ... love?

A marriage license surfaced Wednesday suggesting that jailed auto mogul Denny Hecker and his now jailed bride, Christi Rowan, tied the knot last week in what appears to be a "wedding by proxy."

The marriage certificate was signed by both parties on Feb. 22, just one day before Rowan herself was jailed for allegedly spending more of Hecker's money in violation of a court order.

But inmates are not allowed to have visitors in person at the Sherburne County jail. They visit by phone in front of a television monitor on the other side of the jail.

"He got married by proxy. In almost 30 years of practicing family law, I have never heard of marriage by proxy. I was stunned by it. It's not a legal concept I am aware of," said Becky Toevs Rooney, the attorney who represented Hecker's fourth ex-wife, Tamitha, in her 2009 divorce from Hecker. If the latest marriage is valid, Rowan would be Hecker's fifth wife.

"I understand that the county attorney is investigating it," Toevs Rooney said. "The question I have is, 'Is this meaningless or does this mean he has broken the law somehow?'"

Reached late Wednesday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office has been swarmed with calls on the matter.

A "quick look at the law [revealed] that you do have to be in each other's presence," Freeman said. And it is unclear if a video camera, pastor and witnesses on either end of a phone would constitute being "in the presence" of each other.

"Denny Hecker is just a nonstop source of amusement," Freeman said, adding, "I don't know if this [marriage certificate] is valid or not."

The marriage license filed with Hennepin County on Feb. 22 is signed by Hecker, Rowan, two witnesses and the Rev. Peter Geisendorfer-Lindgren of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove. A marriage application was signed by Hecker in September 2010, and by Rowan on Nov. 5, 2010. However, only Hecker's signature contains a notary stamp.

Officials reached Wednesday evening at the Sherburne County jail, where both Hecker and Rowan are being held in detention, declined to comment.

Freeman said the marriage could come up as a legal matter if the couple tried to file a joint tax return or claim some other "privilege" that is only allowed under Minnesota's marriage law. At that time the Department of Revenue or another party could challenge the validity of the marriage. Until they try to execute a privilege, no one is likely to care, he said.

Hecker defense attorney Bill Mauzy said he was not aware of the marriage and wondered how they were able to accomplish the blessed union. "Did he do this by phone?" Mauzy asked.

Hecker, 58, has been jailed at the facility since October. He was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison for conspiracy and defrauding auto lenders out of more than $30 million.

Rowan, 37, was free when the marriage certificate was issued. But she was arrested the very next day at the jail while visiting Hecker by video monitor.

Rowan is due to be sentenced soon on charges of bankruptcy fraud and bank fraud and on allegations that she recently violated the conditions of her April 2010 plea agreement with federal prosecutors. She faces up to 12 months in jail.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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