A rural Scott County woman and former police officer was sentenced to a 90-day stayed jail sentence April 27 for impersonating a man in a ‘bribe’ attempt of a district judge who was overseeing a child custody case.
Rebecca Anne Pieper, 40, was charged in September 2021 with felony harassment by false impersonation in the incident, in which the Scott County judge overseeing a custody case between Pieper and a man described as her ex-boyfriend received a note, purportedly from the man.
As part of a plea deal, Pieper’s harassment charge was sentenced as a misdemeanor and the prosecution would not seek charges for a separate incident in Le Sueur County or for a complaint made to the Minnesota Department of Labor against the man. The nature of that complaint was not disclosed.
“I just want to work on everything and make everything better and move forward,” Pieper told the court Wednesday.
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office handled the prosecution to avoid a conflict of interest since the judge involved in the case, Paula D. Vraa, is chambered in Scott County.
The victim in the case testified in court during the sentencing that Pieper’s actions continue to keep him up at night.
“The extremes that she is going to is disturbing,” he said, adding a variety of alleged instances where Pieper harassed him, like reporting him to the Minnesota Labor Department or to a local hockey association, while also posting publicly about how he is an unfit father.
“I fear for my life, our son’s well-being and what she is going to do next,” he said. “I’m a different person now because of all of this.”
District Judge Karen Duncan ordered Pieper to continue dialectical behavioral therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, complete 80 days of community service, comply with up to two years of probation and not possess any firearms, ammunition or explosives.
Pieper’s lawyer, Jill Brisbois, had argued against the community service.
While highlighting that she wasn’t excusing Pieper’s actions, Brisbois told the court that “(Pieper’s) a mom and was slowly losing more and more time with her child and made incredibly poor decisions with regard to that out of fear. She has no good excuse, but she is working to address those issues.”
Brisbois told the court Pieper has multiple other matters underway, including a POST Board review and ongoing custody and restraining order issues and that she has found it difficult to find a job.
“I think what is startling about these cases before the court this afternoon is that there was a fair amount of thinking involved to execute the offense and when I hear a parent try to use their status as a parent as an excuse or a justification for committing a crime, it makes me angry,” Duncan said in court. Duncan added that while Pieper had done a great deal of damage to her own life and the victim’s, her child has had to endure this situation.
“So you can’t on one hand say ‘Well, I only did these things because I love my child so much,’ and on the other hand, deliberately do things that are so obviously at odds with the child’s best interest.’”
Also on Wednesday, in a separate but related case in Dakota County, Pieper was also given a stayed 90-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct for allegedly sending an anonymous package to the same judge and to the man’s lawyer. According to court documents, a lewd comment was inscribed inside the package along with “a large chocolate item molded in the shape of male genitalia.”
Pieper was placed on administrative leave from the Olivia Police Department last October and resigned in November, according to Olivia City Administrator Dan Coughlin. She joined the force part-time in May 2020 and was offered a full-time position in July 2021.
Coughlin wrote in an email to Southwest News Media that the city was unaware of the cases involving Pieper at the time she was hired because they were preliminary, active investigations being done outside their region for background checks.
“Pieper’s service during her time with Olivia was noteworthy. She was successful in securing grants for the department, did a nice job with public outreach efforts, and during her brief tenure she received a lifesaving award for her assistance with a resident who was in medical crisis,” Coughlin wrote. “I find it sad, unfortunate and troubling that Pieper’s alleged past actions and choices have caused an otherwise promising career to go in a negative direction.”