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Former Person of Interest in Wetterling Case Sues Investigators

March 29, 2017 06:21 PM

A one-time person of interest in the Jacob Wetterling abduction filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Wednesday alleging investigators fraudulently and illegally secured a search warrant while pursuing a theory that altered the course of the investigation and threw his name into the spotlight.

The suit was filed by attorney Michael Padden on behalf of Daniel Rassier, whose family owns a farm close to where the abduction occurred. Rassier is seeking at least $2 million dollars in damages.

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Initially cleared as a suspect in the case, Rassier was named a person of interest after investigators dug up his farm in 2010 using a search warrant obtained on what the suit claims were fraudulent and illegal means. 

RELATED: Search Warrants Released in Wetterling Case, Man Once a Person of Interest Defends Himself

The suit, also filed on behalf of Rassier's mother, Rita, names Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner, former Capt. Pam Jensen, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Ben McDonald and Stearns County as defendants.

Rassier and his attorney are going after who they're calling "conspirators" in the case.

"They destroyed his life and I think they know it, and frankly we allege that was their goal from the beginning," Padden said. 

Rassier's name was cleared following Danny Heinrich's September confession that he kidnapped and killed Wetterling. The complaint alleges that Rassier was "publicly accused as an innocent citizen, causing him and his parents great harm."

"In between 2004 and 2010 any reasonable investigator would have learned that this guy has nothing to do with it," Padden said. 

The suit alleges the search of Rassier's property was illegal because investigators were "providing known-false information to a judicial official because they had no valid evidence for probable cause."

"The warrant documents which they very much did not want to be public were made public, and their fingerprints were all over what they did," Padden said. 

Rassier said some of his seized property still hasn't been returned. 

"Finally after he retained a lawyer they returned some of his stuff," Padden said. "In fact, they never returned the soil." 

Rassier's attorney tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the information his client gave to investigators related to the case years ago was even overlooked.

"The vehicles he saw on the date of the abduction, the information he conveyed to law enforcement was 100% accurate," Padden said. 

Rassier told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in September he's grateful the Wetterling family was able to gain closure. But he said he's disappointed his rights were violated in the process.

Said Padden: "The fact that the case was solved was not nirvana for him. In fact, it led to the discovery of the revelations of how his rights were violated." 

RELATED: Heinrich's Confession Finally Solves Jacob Wetterling Mystery

Jason Hively, an attorney representing Stearns County, responded to the suit Wednesday:

We understand Daniel and Rita Rassier filed a lawsuit in federal court. Once Stearns County and its employees have been properly served with the Summons and Complaint, we will file an Answer setting forth our legal defenses to the Rassiers' allegations. We will not be commenting further on this pending litigation except to say the actions of the Sheriff's Department Investigators were reasonable and we believe this case will ultimately be resolved in their favor.

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Michael Oakes and Brett Hoffland

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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