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Jury selection starts in Austin police captain trial

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BYLINE: Janice Gregorson

Rochester, MN

Jury selection was to begin this morning in the case of an Austin police captain charged nearly two years ago with illegally removing a prescription painkiller from the department's evidence room.

Curt Rude, who is second-in-command of the Austin Police Department, has been on administrative leave since being charged with felony and gross misdemeanor counts in December 2007. Rude denies any wrongdoing.

Rude is a 23-year veteran with the department. He also is a member of the Austin School Board.

The case is being prosecuted by Ross Leuning, a senior assistant Olmsted County attorney, to avoid any conflict of interest in Mower County. The trial also is being held in Olmsted County, with Judge Kevin Lund presiding. Rude is being represented by Twin Cities attorney Peter Wold. The trial is expected to last all week.

The drug in question, OxyContin, was from a closed criminal case and in a barrel to be destroyed. Rude's attorney has said that Rude admits taking the bottle of pills but only to his office to research the drug and learn more about what caused a friend's death. The OxyContin was from a case involving Mark Johnson, a friend of Rude's who died of an overdose from the drug. Johnson was a former reporter for KAAL-TV and had been convicted of selling OxyContin in a school zone in 2006. The pills were evidence, and when the case was closed, they were discarded in what was described as a burn barrel.

In December, Lund ruled against a defense motion to dismiss the charges. Rude now goes to trial on felony theft, felony fifth-degree controlled substance crime and gross misdemeanor interfering with property in official custody.

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International Association for Property and Evidence
"Law Enforcement Serving the Needs of Law Enforcement"
Officer's conviction jeopardizes 1,300 cases;

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