The attorney for the mother of the two sisters Lakeville sisters, who were found yesterday living at a ranch in western Minnesota after a two year search, is demanding her legal bills be paid, which total over $200,000.
Michelle MacDonald (above left) is the attorney for Sandra Grazzini-Rucki (above right), who was charged in August with three felony counts of deprivation of parental rights involving the disappearance of her two daughters, Samantha and Gianna Rucki in April 2013.
Samantha and Gianna’s father, David Rucki, was awarded custody of all five of his children in November 2013.
Public records filed in Dakota County show MacDonald has filed two attorney liens against her client Grazzini-Rucki for legal fees totaling $222,730.92, despite claiming in a recent hearing that she was providing "pro bono" legal services to Grazzini-Rucki.
Lakeville police still consider MacDonald a "person of interest" in the disappearance of the two missing sisters and MacDonald has not cooperated with the investigation.
MacDonald was the Republican Party of Minnesota's endorsed candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2014. Police told the Star Tribune that evidence found at the home of MacDonald's campaign manager, Dede Evavold, led to the search at the ranch where the girls were found yesterday.
MacDonald's attempt to collect over $200,000 in legal fees from Grazzini-Rucki conflicts with MacDonald's repeated claims that her client has no financial resources.
At a court hearing last week in Dakota County, MacDonald said Grazzini-Rucki, had "no money to pay" MacDonald for her legal services. Grazzini-Rucki was appearing in court to face criminal charges related to the disappearance of her two daughters on April 19, 2013.
"I am not getting paid, I haven’t been paid for any of my services at this point," said MacDonald, who described her work for Grazzini-Rucki as "pro bono."
Moments later, MacDonald requested to be appointed Grazzini-Rucki's public defender for her criminal trial and be paid through Dakota County to represent Grazzini-Rucki.
In a family court hearing in Dakota County on Tuesday, Lisa Elliot, who is the attorney for Sandra Grazzini-Rucki's ex-husband David Rucki, challenged MacDonald on the attorney liens she filed against Grazzini-Rucki.
Elliot said MacDonald has repeatedly claimed "that she has been representing [Grazzini-Rucki] pro bono" in numerous court hearings in different jurisdictions since MacDonald began serving as Grazzni-Rucki's attorney in January 2013.
MacDonald, Elliot claimed, "continues to use what ever benefit she's getting from claiming she's been representing [Grazzini-Rucki] pro bono." Elliot said MacDonald's claims of "pro bono" work for Grazzini-Rucki, "flies in the face of her now trying to seek these funds," said Elliot.
MacDonald disagreed with Elliot's comments and said she was representing Grazzini-Rucki at "no pay," which she claimed was different. MacDonald added that Grazzini-Rucki has been kept aware of MacDonald's outstanding bills.
When asked yesterday afternoon for her to explain the difference between "no pay" and "pro bono", MacDonald responded via email and wrote there was "no difference" in the two terms.
Earlier today, MacDonald's criminal defense attorney, Stephen Grigsby, replaced MacDonald as Grazzini-Rucki's criminal defense attorney. MacDonald still serves as Grazzini-Rucki's attorney in family court.