Back to Manassas Park: The Arrest of David Ruttenberg

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

I’ve written before that one of several reasons why I’ve come to believe David Ruttenberg is that after all of the entrapment, undercover operations, and harassment he has endured at the hands of the Manassas Park Police Department, the guy to this point has never been charged with a crime (the other reason I believe him is that to this point, everything he’s told me that could be checked out, has checked out).

The never-charged-with-a-crime stuff, though, is not entirely true. Ruttenberg was arrested once, in 2002. But not for drugs, child pornography, or any of the other stuff Manassas Park city officials have accused him of, either officially or via rumor and innuendo. Ruttenberg was actually charged with filing a false police report. The details of that arrest constitute yet another incident of harassment of Ruttenberg at the hands of local authorities. Here’s the story:

On December 28, 2001, David Ruttenberg decided to fire a guy named Rick Potter, a deejay who had been working at Rack ‘n’ Roll. David had noticed that Potter may have been coming to work high. He then began hearing rumors from customers and other employees that Potter was dealing ecstasy from the club. So he fired him.

Potter came into work the next day, on December 29, and learned of his termination. Angry, he ran to the back of the club, yanked a mixing board out of the deejay booth, and darted out of the club with it. It wasn’t his mixing board. It belonged to a another deejay at the club, a guy named Christian Gates.

Ruttenberg immediately called the police to report the theft. Gates signed an affidavit attesting that the mixing board was his property, and that he had never given Potter permission to take it. Potter was arrested, and charged with grand larceny.

At Potter’s trial, his defense attorney approached Ruttenberg, and told him that Potter had a prior criminal record. Actually, a pretty extensive one. He had previously been convicted of stealing computers from a school, and had a 17-year suspended sentence hanging over his head. A conviction on this charge would likely send him back to jail to fulfill the rest of the sentence. Ruttenberg actually liked Potter (Ruttenberg’s biggest flaw, over and over again in all of this, seems to be that he’s too trusting and too willing to give second chances to people who don’t deserve them), and recognized that the guy was a mess. He didn’t want the theft of a mixing board from his club to ultimately put the guy away for 17 years, effectively ruining his life.

So Ruttenberg approached the prosecutors, and told them that he no longer wanted to press charges. The state dropped its case against Potter.

Ruttenberg would soon find out that Christian Gates changed his story. Despite signing an affidavit for Ruttenberg stating otherwise (see link above), Gates later strangely told police that he had given Potter permission to yank his mixing board out of the deejay booth and flee with it during business hours (sounds oddly like a guy pressured to change his story, doesn’t it? Who would give someone permission to do such a thing?)

This was apparently enough for the police to charge Ruttenberg with willfully misleading them.

On March February 11, 2002, Manassas Park Police Officer Travis Mosher (the same officer who would later release two men Ruttenberg caught doing cocaine in his club without so much as a summons, and who I would personally witness harassing Ruttenberg’s customers, in addition to other odd goings-on) came in to Rack ‘n’ Roll with a warrant for David Ruttenberg’s arrest. Officer Mosher then handcuffed Ruttenberg and frog-marched him out of his own business in handcuffs, in front of his customers and employees. For a misdemeanor.

If you look at the arrest warrant, you’ll also notice that the officer who filed the complaint is named Howard Perry (weird side note: I’m told that Perry is the police officer who found John Wayne Bobbit’s severed penis on the side of the road).

Ruttenberg’s trial was in April 2002. He attended with his father Neil Ruttenberg and his girlfriend at the time, Amber Lucas (I’ve also interviewed Lucas, and she confirmed this account of events). Ruttenberg’s case was toward the end of the day, and the courtroom was nearly empty by the time it was called. But let’s back up a bit. During the proceedings of another trial, Ruttenberg’s then-girlfriend Lucas recognized one of the prosecutors, a woman named Amy Ashworth. Lucas moved up to the front of the courtroom and sat just behind Ashworth, waiting for an opportunity to say hello. A short time later, as Ruttenberg’s trial approached, Lucas says she noticed Officer Perry sitting just to the right of Ashworth. According to Lucas, Perry leaned over, and said to Ashworth, referring to Ruttenberg, “This is a really bad guy. We need to teach him a lesson. We need your help getting this guy.” According to Lucas, Ashworth was surprised, and replied, sternly, “I’ll have no part of that.”

This story comes via Lucas, a former paramour of Ruttenberg’s. So weigh it accordingly. I wasn’t able to get in touch with Ashford. Ruttenberg says she told she has no recollection of the conversation with Perry, though she didn’t deny it happened, either.

Here’s another related harassment anecdote: Ruttenberg and Lucas say that one night at the height of the Rack ‘n’ Roll harassment, the couple was in the car kissing when Officers Perry and Mosher approached them. They knocked on the window, and amused, asked Lucas if she was really “with this guy of your own free will?”

Ruttenberg, his father, and Lucas also say that just before Ruttenberg’s trial was to begin, four Manassas Park police officers entered the courtroom and sat in the back row, with broad smiles on their faces.

When it came time for the trial, the prosecutor did indeed refuse to pursue the charges. She entered a nolle prosequi. Ruttenberg was free to go. The four police officers apparently left unhappy.

Here’s where it gets even stranger. At Ruttenberg’s state Alcoholic Beverage Control hearing (remember, that’s the hearing resulting from the raid on Ruttenberg’s pool hall), Ruttenberg brought up his arrest as evidence that the Manassas Park police and city officials were out to get him. Bizarrely, Officer Mosher testified that he couldn’t remember arresting Ruttenberg. From the transcript:

Q: Now, in March of 2002 [sic], did you go to Rack ‘n’ Roll and arrest David Ruttenberg for a false police report?

Mosher: I’m not sure.

Q: You don’t recall?

Mosher: I do not.

Hearing Officer: You don’t recall arresting him?

Mosher: I don’t recall, ma’am. The reason I don’t recall is that I’m not sure if it was a warrant or something along those natures. I, myself, did not generate a case.

Hearing Officer: Did you actually arrest him?

Mosher: I don’t recall.

Q: Is it your testimony that you did not show up and place David Ruttenberg in handcuffs and…

Counsel: Objection to the characterization.

Hearing Officer: He said he didn’t recall that.

Q: He didn’t recall arresting him, wasn’t sure if it was a warrant. I want to know if he recalled putting him in handcuffs.

Mosher: I do not recall.

This is implausible. Ruttenberg’s name was the talk of Manassas Park at the time, and has been since. It’s a small town. And the police, including Mosher, were clearly fixated on Ruttenberg and Rack ‘n’ Roll. It’s just not feasible that Mosher wouldn’t remember arresting him and escorting him out of the bar.

Thing is, it would also be a weird thing for Mosher to lie about. It isn’t as if there’s any question about who made the arrest. He clearly signed the warrant, and including his badge number, as the officer who executed the arrest. Ruttenberg’s customers and employees also witnessed the whole thing.

The only reason I can figure he’d “forget” about the incident is that doing so might get him out of answering any probing questions about who instructed him to do it, and why.

Now look at this. It’s a statement given by Angie Hoffman, a former waitress at Rack ‘n’ Roll, to a private investigator hired by the Ruttenbergs. Hoffman claims that about 3 1/2 months before the ABC hearing, Officer Mosher told her at a family barbecue that everyone in the Manassas Park police department knows Ruttenberg is a drug dealer (she also says she’s never known Ruttenberg to either use or distribute drugs).

I’ve talked to several people around Manassas Park who tell similar stories. The town’s police made a habit of warning people not to visit David Ruttenberg’s club due, in turn, to Ruttenberg being a drug user, a drug dealer, a rapist, and/or a child pornographer. Of course, there’s no evidence that he’s any of those things.

At the ABC hearing, Officer Mosher testified that he’d never heard of Hoffman.

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