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Ruttenberg’s Story Getting Interest

By Greg L | 28 December 2006 | Rack & Roll Scandal | 29 Comments

I’m noticing a fair amount of trackbacks on the earlier postings regarding the battle between Dave Ruttenberg and the City of Manassas Park, and it’s definitely worth a trip or two across a few of the national blogs who are picking up on this story. Many of them have devoted a lot of time and effort to this story, and are presenting a wealth of information that citizens in the area need to know.

First up is Radley Balko of The Agitator who has been following this for several years and has done a huge amount of digging:

OTB hit the ballot in Manassas Park in 1996. It lost, but by just 74 votes. Colonial Downs and the OTB proponents would be back for another shot, in eight years. But let’s stick with 1996 for just a moment. At the time, Rack n’ Roll owner David Ruttenberg started to wrap his brain around just how lucrative an OTB facility might be. Knowing the layout of the city, he figured his bar was sitting on land that would make an ideal location for a betting parlor.

Ruttenberg was right. The small, hour-glass shaped town of Manassas Park had been completely zoned out to new development on one side, and was filled with upper-income plots on the other — the type of homeowners who wouldn’t tolerate a gambling operation in the neighborhood. That left little else but Ruttenberg’s own shopping center. What’s more, the main highway into town ran right by the center. It wasn’t just an ideal location. It was really was the only location.

So Ruttenberg got together with the other major tenant of the shopping center and drew up an offer, which they sent to Colonial Downs. If the OTB resolution passed, the memo said, Ruttenberg and the other tenant would sell their businesses, their cooperation on their leases, and their consult to Colonial Downs for $5.25 million. I’ve seen a copy of the offer. This is important to keep in mind. Because it shows that Colonial Downs — and presumably by extension, the city of Manassas Park — knew that Mr. Ruttenberg was savvy, and that it was going to take a lot of money to get him to hand over his business and his lease. If they wanted that space in 2004, the 1996 offer proved they’d either have to pay him a lot of money, or find a way to throw him out.

Radley lays most of the story out in exacting detail, and fills in a lot of the missing pieces which have eluded many regular readers and which I have been working to substantiate. This post is a ‘must read’ for anyone trying to figure out how this whole improbable story started.

For the attorneys out there, FourthAmendment.com (see this update also) talks about the civil case that David Ruttenberg filed and has some discussion regarding how legally defensible it was to dismiss Ruttenberg’s case. My impression is that there’s a solid basis for appeal of the dismissal, and that there’s a good chance this will eventually go forward.

Finally, The Liberty Papers has a short post and has taken interest. They’ll be watching also.

As this starts to get national exposure, it ought to start getting pretty interesting for several folks in Manassas Park, and perhaps a for a few others beyond as well. Of particular note is that Balko is mentioning the name of Paul Ebert, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Prince William County and a major player in the Northern Virginia political scene and someone who has shown a remarkable disinterest in looking into this matter. Although there seems to be no evidence that Paul Ebert was involved in this in any way, his inexplicable failure to look into a case of official harassment, perjury and obstuction of justice where there is substantial evidence to support the allegations of impropriety is extremely troubling. It may indicate that this is a wider issue than just the somewhat obscure little locality of Manassas Park, and if so make this one of the bigger political stories for Northern Virginia this year.

When I return from vacation, we’re going to go to the videos, and see exactly what it looks like when corrupt officials take aim at the citizenry. It’s going to be interesting…

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  1. Anonymous said on 28 Dec 2006 at 10:40 am:
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    Any concerns that your coverage might damage the relationship between the city of Manassas Park and its voters and Delegate Miller? You worked on his campaign and seemingly an active part of GOP politics in the area. To some degree, whether you want to or not, you have come to represent him.

  2. Dave said on 28 Dec 2006 at 1:26 pm:
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    so, what part of telling the truth will be damaging, exactly?

  3. anonymous said on 28 Dec 2006 at 2:27 pm:
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    I live in Manassas Park and this coverage is not changing anything about Jackson Miller to me.

  4. AWCheney said on 28 Dec 2006 at 3:08 pm:
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    Anonymous rather sounds like he’s making a threat, doesn’t he Dave? One would think that the voters would appreciate (as you said, Dave) the truth about their government officials and police. They have to live with them as well. How does that adage go….”but for the Grace of God, there go I?”

  5. anon in Loudoun said on 28 Dec 2006 at 8:32 pm:
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    What? A politically active Commonwealth’s Attorney refusing to look into wrongdoing by local politicians? How shocking!

    Jim Plowman in Loudoun County is much the same way. Tons of rumors about funky going ons in land deals and Eugene Delgaudio’s infamous county stationary fundraising letter and Plowman is nowhere to be seen.

    This is the problem with political law enforcers. Some type of independent state-wide special prosecutor needs to be set up to handle these types of cases.

  6. Greg L said on 28 Dec 2006 at 11:07 pm:
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    Although I’d love the opportunity to be a part of Delegate Miller’s staff I’m just another one of his many supporters. Anyone that thinks I’m speaking for him instead of myself hasn’t been watching this website very closely.

    One thing that I think separates Democrats from Republicans is that when Republicans make serious mistakes, other Republicans call them to account for them, even when it’s politically damaging to do so. When Democrats make mistakes, they circle the wagons and work like hell to get the miscreant re-elected. When Foley’s misdeeds were uncovered, his resignation was demanded. When a Democrat in Louisiana was found to be hiding bribe money in his refrigerator, the Democrats made sure he got re-elected just as was the case with Barney Frank after he actually had sex with Congressional pages.

    We Republicans police our own. Despite the short-term consequences, it’s the right thing to do.

  7. Anonon said on 28 Dec 2006 at 11:26 pm:
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    I have long thought this blog to be an extension of the Miller campaign, so the first poster isn’t alone in their assessment. I feel like Manassas Park bashing is turning in to something of a sport and I am not particularly fond of it.

  8. AWCheney said on 28 Dec 2006 at 11:47 pm:
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    Anonon, this is not Manassas Park bashing…it is reporting an egregious abuse of power. Residents and businesses in Manassas Park should be just as concerned about the actions of their police and city officials as Greg is, perhaps more so. Abuses such as this cannot exist in the light.

  9. Greg L said on 29 Dec 2006 at 12:00 am:
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    I’d much rather there wasn’t a story regarding corruption and abuse of power in Manassas Park to report. Since there is, the citizens need to know what’s happening and if I have to be the one to get the ball rolling then so be it. This could happen to any one of us, and the only thing that will deter or prevent this behavior is the vigilance of the citizenry. In the end, we have to be the masters of the political realm, not the one’s we’ve temporarily selected to exercise authority on our behalf.

    And until there are some answers, the well-deserved bashing of the government of Manassas Park will continue. It must. To allow this behavior to continue would be to throw away the sacrifices so many have made in order to secure our ability to be the people to be the masters of the politicians, rather than the other way around.

  10. Anonon said on 29 Dec 2006 at 12:06 am:
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    And what if you are wrong?

  11. Greg L said on 29 Dec 2006 at 12:21 am:
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    I’ve seen a tremendous amount of documentation that satisfies my concerns about whether Dave Ruttenberg is being truthful or not. I’ve checked on the information I’ve posted, and others are busy verifying the information as well. No one has been able to discredit any of the facts David has provided so far, or has even tried to dispute them.

    I’m about as confident as I can possibly be in this story. The chance of this being wrong is vanishingly small, and this scandal needs serious investigation which has so far been thwarted. Perhaps not for long though, given some of the rumblings I’m hearing.

    The only part of this I cannot determine, and it’s not coming from Dave Ruttenberg, is how high up the coverups go. The answer to that is likely to be pretty shocking.

  12. AWCheney said on 29 Dec 2006 at 4:36 am:
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    Anonon, in the past year I have personally witnessed much of what Dave Ruttenberg has reported to Greg. During that time I have strongly encouraged both Dave and his father to go public with this but they were convinced that the system and the courts would protect them and give them justice, and they didn’t want to embarrass Manassas Park unnecessarily. I, being perhaps a bit jaded, was convinced that by not combating the vicious slander campaign undertaken by the authorities and utilizing the “court of public opinion” they would never get justice. I respected their wishes but obviously I was right.

    Perhaps a public outcry can finally get them that hard-earned day in court so that the evidence can finally be presented and those responsible for the willful destruction of a man’s reputation, livelihood, and future can be brought to task. That justice is long overdue.

  13. Batson D. Belfrey said on 29 Dec 2006 at 9:11 am:
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    “Anonon said on 29 Dec 2006 at 12:06 am:
    And what if you are wrong? ”

    And what if the blogs had been wrong about the fake documents claiming G.W. Bush was AWOL from his Air National Guard post?

    Answer: The MSM would not have been forced to do their jobs, and we’d still be stuck with Dan Rather, and maybe even President John Kerry

    And what if the blogs had been wrong about about the Foley emails an IM’s?

    Answer: Brian Ross wouldn’t have had a story, and we’d have a predator in Congress.

    And what if this blog hadn’t educated the voters that Jeanette Rishell was a radical liberal who supports the EZLN who have declared war on the US?

    Answer: I could be moving to Idaho now.

    The point is, Greg, and this blog has done a tremendous job getting the real news out there. The MJM does a TERRIBLE job of getting the facts behind the story, or staying with the story to it’s conclusion. You imply that MP doesn’t have some issues to work out? You mean to tell me that local governments never abuse their power, like say in siezing private property and turning it over to developers? Your argument that because BVBL supported the Miller campaign, he can’t comment on the goings on in Manassas Park is just plain silly. That’s like saying that because the MJM’s editorial board is so pro-illegal, the paper can’t run a story about an illegal committing a crime….

    Greg, stay with this story. We need to know the facts. The MJM is to busy covering fluff.

  14. Anonon said on 29 Dec 2006 at 2:33 pm:
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    I just read the whole circuit court document. Can you explain why it refers to Frank Jones being mayor at the time of the raid in June 2004. Bill Treuting was… If memory serves, I voted for Bill in May 2004 and Frank Jones wasn’t sworn in until July 1 of that year?

  15. anonymous said on 29 Dec 2006 at 5:19 pm:
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    Where is the circuit court document? I would like to read it but if it’s been posted somewhere, I haven’t found it.

  16. AWCheney said on 29 Dec 2006 at 10:34 pm:
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    This whole thing started on Bill Treuting’s watch…nobody’s hands are clean here.

  17. Anonon said on 30 Dec 2006 at 4:10 pm:
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    Vote Totals Percentage
    F. C. “Frank” Jones Jr. 320 56.34%
    William J. Treuting Jr. 248 43.66%

    I just checked - Frank Jones was elected in May 2004. He wasn’t sworn in until July 1, 2004, after the raid. I question why only one mayor was named in the suit when the raid actually occurred on someone else’s watch. Does the research or evidence offer any explanation for that?

  18. Anonon said on 30 Dec 2006 at 7:59 pm:
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    The circuit court doc is on the Agitator site. It mentions nothing about the OTB. Everyone is taking this guy at face value, but from where I am sitting he’s changed his tune from personal vendetta about a girl to the OTB thing. Which one is true? Why didn’t he put it in the court filing if he has evidence to support his assertions. And he has singled out one mayor when the timeline doesn’t support that (as you noted.) Plus, I know that there is drug and gang activity in that shopping center - I have seen it and I don’t go there as a result. You see where, with all that, people might doubt his story?

  19. Greg L said on 30 Dec 2006 at 9:06 pm:
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    There may have been a real legal strategy involved in not referring directly to the OTB connection with all of this in the pleading. Don’t construe it not being there as a reason to believe the connection doesn’t exist. The personal issue between that MPC police officer and Ruttenberg is probably a big motivator for that side story, but it’s not the meat, and the OTB angle was embargoed during the lawsuit.

    I know there’s a TON of stuff to wade through, and it may not all fit togethere yet, but as this story is told I assure you it will all make sense. Just watch as the evidence gets rolled out. It’s coming soon.

  20. AWCheney said on 30 Dec 2006 at 9:09 pm:
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    “Plus, I know that there is drug and gang activity in that shopping center - I have seen it and I don’t go there as a result. You see where, with all that, people might doubt his story?”

    Anonon, this activity is coming from another area in the shopping center…and is well-known to the police and others. This is the reason that Dave Ruttenberg was so careful to have more security, both electronic and human, than other similar businesses in the area. This was also the reason that he made sure to immediately report any illegal activity that he either witnessed or heard about to the police. As a matter of fact, there was actually an incident some years ago, before the raid, when he reported a major drug incident that he had been told about…and a police officer was WITNESSED informing the drug dealer that Dave had informed on him.

    There is considerable evidence existing that the authorities have much to answer for…and none that Dave is guilty of anything other than naiveté. THAT is why they don’t want it presented in court.

  21. Anonon said on 30 Dec 2006 at 9:51 pm:
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    I guess the other problem I have with this is the source - Balko. As the child of a law enforcement officer who was permenently disabled (and left in constant pain for more than 30 years now) by injuries sustained in the line of duty, he offends me to the core. I know that’s not you, Greg - you supported Delegate Miller, a cop - but he’s an ___. Law enforcement officers are largely noble and often pay a real price for their service. He seems to think that they are the root of all evil.

    I’ll wait to hear your evidence, because I can’t believe Balko.

  22. Radley Balko said on 31 Dec 2006 at 12:24 am:
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    I’m not against law enforcement. I’m against law enforcement officials who feel they’re above the law, and policies that basically put them above the law. This case is a good example of both.

    The problem isn’t that most cops are bad — the vast majority are good, honorable public servants. The problem is that a few of them are bad, and that the good ones cover for the bad ones.

    My work on SWAT teams is more about a bad policy that puts good cops in precarious positions than about bad cops.

    Not sure what about my work “offends you to the core.” If your father was injured in the line of duty by a criminal, I think that criminal ought to be punished. But when police break the law or abuse their authority and people get hurt as a result, they ought to be punished, too. Too often they aren’t.

    If you think police officers should be held to a lower standard than everyone else, then I guess I’m glad I offend you. If you think they should be held to the same, if not higher, standard, then nothing about what I’ve written should be particularly offensive.

    And at least I write under my own name. Kinda cheap to take a shot at me under the “anonymous” handle, don’t you think?

  23. Anonon said on 31 Dec 2006 at 9:06 am:
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    That’s the handle I use here - in case you haven’t figured it out, this is a small town. Cheap shots - you seem to do it for a living. The men who attacked my dad were never punished - a group of men threw a masonry block in his back during a riot. Has lived in pain every single day since, for over thirty years. Face it, there is no justice in the world.

  24. Anonon said on 31 Dec 2006 at 10:18 am:
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    I apologize for the cheap shots comment, Mr. Balko. (Greg can take it out if he wishes.) You are right, law enforcement should be held to a higher standard. But is publishing court documents without the officers names redacted could potentially put undercover investigations and other officers at risk. How is that defensible?

    In case you missed the results of the last election, two people involved and supportive of the OTB initiative were voted out of office. If I remember correctly, Adam Larson lead the fight against it and was elected (until he bailed out of office and town.)

    There is no functional recall mechanism in this state - it isn’t merely a matter of collecting signatures. The next election is two years out. What do you want? To drag this whole community through the mud and drive our property values to the dump? Because I think you guys might just be able to pull that one off…

    You all put this out there because you wanted people engaged and aware. Well, I am reading every day. That doesn’t mean I have to like you or what you are saying. But I am thinking about it. A lot.

  25. Radley Balko said on 31 Dec 2006 at 11:00 am:
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    The court documents I published had the officers’ names redacted. Frankly, I don’t think they deserve that much. I don’t think they should be police officers anymore, much less be allowed to continue to do undercover work. Still, I obliged, and left out their names.

    I didn’t redact the names of the informants working for the police because the use of those informants, and the way their identities have been protected, is one way the town has effectively trapped Mr. Ruttenberg.

    Follow me, here. Mr. Ruttenberg is saying — and with good evidence, I think — that the police are sending people into his bar to initiate drug activity, then they’re turning right around to accuse Mr. Ruttenberg of operating an “open air drug market.” In his ABC hearing, Mr. Ruttenberg attempted to prove that the drug activity described in the complaint against him was being initiated by the police. But he was barred from doing so, because the police refused to say who was and wasn’t working for them as an informant. The confidentiality granted to informants basically made it impossible for Mr. Ruttenberg to defend himself.

    As for what I’d like to see happen in this case, well, I’d like to see Mr. Ruttenberg compensated for the loss of his business and his reputation. I’ m sorry that the city of Manassas Park may end up having to pay for part of that (though most cities have municipal insurance for this kind of thing). But what would you have happen? Should Mr. Ruttenberg just have to write off his business? Should he just have to live with the nasty rumors that were spread about him? What kind of message would that send about how Manassas Park treats its businesses?

    I’d also like to see the individuals responsible for this held accountable. That would include financial judgments against them in favor or Mr. Ruttenberg, but it should also criminal charges, where appropriate.

    I do appreciate the more civil tone in your second response. I don’t have any animus for Manassas Park. I grew up in a small town, and have fond memories of it. And I do regret that the people of Manassas Park may have to pay for the mistakes of their public officials. But in my opinion, Mr. Ruttenberg has been clearly wronged, here. And when the government violates someone’s civil rights, that person is owed compensation.

  26. Golem said on 31 Dec 2006 at 12:09 pm:
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    David Ruttenberg has done business in Manassas Park for 18 years. He realized the serious nature of a Federal suit that alleged violation by Manassas Park officials of basic constitutional rights. Accordingly, he wanted to be absoultely certain that his allegations could withstand the most intense scrutiny. In order to do this he based the Federal suit on the formal record in the case that was established before the ABC.

    The formal record before the ABC is a total indictment of the activities of certain Manassas Park officials. It does not, however, include OTB facts because they were not relevant to the ABC proceeding. It does includes sworn testimony and other evidence about Lugo’s relationship with Nina which Lugo tried to deny at the hearing. David Ruttenberg’s contemporaneous report to Officer Larry Berry (Lugo’s boss) about Lugo’s threats to close down the business. Sworn testimony about RnR’s head of security working for the police (in order to get leniency with respect to probation to which he was then subject) to allow drug deals in RnR that he was, in fact, responsible for preventing. Sworn testimony from the sister of the principal drug dealer at RnR (Jeff Price) that he was working for the Narcotics Task Force and that they specifically wanted him to do drug deals at RnR. Sworn testimony to the effect that the only individual to buy drugs at RnR was an undercover police officer (who bought from the “principal dealer”). Sworn testimony from police officers that they unsuccessfully attempted a similar drug setup, by co-opting David’s then girlfriend, in 2003. And on and on.

    Although David had substantial evidence of an OTB connection (reference this blog and others), he did not have the hard core facts he had on unconstitutional police activity. David wanted to be responsible with respect to any allegation made in the Federal suit. Further, he had confidence that the Federal Court would permit his case to go forward to a jury, i.e., that the motion to dismiss would not be granted. Once that happened, David could utilize the discovery procedures of the Federal Court to further investigate the OTB connection, e.g., depositions of the actors involved including those from the race track . As additional hard core evidence was identified, the complaint would be modified to include OTB allegations.

    David’s confidence in the court was misguided. The motion to dismiss was granted. Unless the Rutttenberg’s prevail on the appeal to the Fourth Circuit, the true facts in this case will not be made public and, unfortunately, the public’s constitutional protections will inevitably be weakened.

    The idea that David has “changed his tune” is wrong but consistent with your position throughout. You still don’t know David Ruttenberg Anonon and you never will.

  27. AWCheney said on 31 Dec 2006 at 3:08 pm:
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    Anonon, I’ve seen your posts here on BVBL for quite some time and you seem like a good person who is genuinely interested in her community. Given that, perhaps you should also remember the sage truth that evil can only exist if good people turn a blind to it. All that Greg and Radley are trying to do is inform and activate good people.

  28. AWCheney said on 31 Dec 2006 at 8:06 pm:
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    Of course, I meant “blind eye.”

  29. Anonon said on 31 Dec 2006 at 9:36 pm:
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    Thanks Cheney. I will keep your words in mind. Happy New Year.

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