Former Wetterling Person of Interest's Attorney says Client is Satisfied with Judge's Ruling

August 03, 2018 10:50 AM

The video above aired in March when Rassier first filed his lawsuit.


The attorney for a one-time person-of-interest in the investigation into the abduction of Jacob Wetterling called Thursday's decision by a federal judge "well-reasoned," despite the fact portions of the lawsuit filed by Dan Rassier and his mother Rita were dismissed.

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Rassier, whose family owns a farm close to where the abduction occurred, filed a lawsuit against former Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner, Stearns County and BCA Agent Ken McDonald earlier this spring.

RELATED: Portions of Lawsuit Filed by Former Wetterling Person of Interest Dismissed

On Thursday, United States District Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the portions of the lawsuit that claimed the search warrants were obtained by fraudulent or illegal means. The judge also dismissed McDonald as a party in the lawsuit.

But the court did uphold Rassier's claims of First Amendment retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation, "stemming from Sanner labeling Rassier a person of interest."

RELATED: Former Person of Interest in Wetterling Case Sues Investigators

It is in light of that decision that Rassier's attorney Michael Padden said Stearns County should settle the claim as quickly as possible.

"Sanner's counsel represents both Sanner and Stearns County," Padden said as part of a longer statement Friday.

While Sanner may have a desire to prevail at all costs, Stearns County should not. The Courts have held that lawyers working on behalf of the government – in both criminal and civil cases – have a duty to the general public, and to the enforcement of justice. In this regard, the Courts have further said that the government should not spend public resources attempting to defeat a claim, "unless the government has first stopped to ask itself, 'Is opposing this claim just, is it fair, is there a reasonable basis for believing that the government can prevail on both the law and fact?'"  

"It cannot be credibly disputed that Dan's claims are meritorious," Padden said later in the statement. "As such, Stearns County has a duty – to both the taxpayers and Dan – to resolve his claims justly and expeditiously."

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

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.

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

The statement from Padden read:

On November 30, 2017, U.S. District Judge, Donovan W. Frank, issued a decision on the Defendants' motions to dismiss in Dan Rassier's federal civil rights case.  Dan and Rita are pleased with the Court's well-reasoned decision. While the Court dismissed some collateral claims, the main claims asserted – First Amendment (federal retaliation), federal policy/practice claim against Stearns County, and the Minnesota state law defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, expectedly, were not dismissed.

Sanner's counsel represents both Sanner and Stearns County.  While Sanner may have a desire to prevail at all costs, Stearns County should not.  The Courts have held that lawyers working on behalf of the government – in both criminal and civil cases – have a duty to the general public, and to the enforcement of justice.  In this regard, the Courts have further said that the government should not spend public resources attempting to defeat a claim, "unless the government has first stopped to ask itself, 'Is opposing this claim just, is it fair, is there a reasonable basis for believing that the government can prevail on both the law and fact?  Zimmerman v. Schweiker, 575 F. Supp. 1436, 1440 (E.D.N.Y. 1983).

Stearns County wasted public funds on the filing of a motion to dismiss that had little, if any, impact on the overall litigation. As Judge Donavan noted in his decision, "In an interview for Into the Dark,  [former Stearns County Sheriff John]  Sanner stated that he called Rassier a person of interest after Rassier talked about the Wetterling kidnapping with the St. Cloud Times." Court Memorandum at p. 5 (citing Into the Dark: Person of Interest, American Public Media (September 27, 2016). It cannot be credibly disputed that Dan's claims are meritorious. As such, Stearns County has a duty – to both the taxpayers and Dan – to resolve his claims justly and expeditiously.

In light of the ongoing litigation, neither Dan nor his counsel will be commenting further on this matter.

Credits

Frank Rajkowski and Ben Rodgers

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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