Dan Rassier sues Stearns Co. sheriff's office for defamation, public harassment

On October 22, 1989, Jacob Wetterling was abducted at the end of Dan Rassier’s driveway in St. Joseph. For decades, Rassier was questioned and scrutinized over the case.

Since Danny Heinrich came clean to Wetterling’s abduction, assault and murder, the time has come for Rassier to seek justice himself.

“He made it clear when he saw a car from the time of the abduction,” said Michael Padden, the civil rights attorney representing the 61-year-old elementary school teacher. “We know now from Heinrich’s confession that what Dan saw was in fact Heinrich’s car." 

In 2004, Stearns County Sheriff John Sanner and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension zeroed in on Rassier.

“We estimate an excess of 15,000 boys he’s worked with. Okay? Not one complaint has been made against Mr. Rassier in terms of any inappropriate conduct with a boy," Padden said. 

Yet in 2004, Rassier was formally named a person of interest in Wetterling’s case for more than a decade.

“Now don’t you think they would’ve looked into that before they started pointing the finger at him?” Padden said. 

Overnight, Rassier’s status went from being a key witness to a likely suspect.

In 2010, a search warrant was executed on Rassier’s farm. Property was taken and destroyed according to a preview of the lawsuit against Sheriff John Sanner, the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office, The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and BCA Agent Ken McDonald.

All the while, Padden claims the efforts of citizens with evidence against Heinrich were circumvented, particularly the efforts of one of Heinrich’s victims who has since broken his silence— Jared Scheirel.

Evidence of Sheirel’s assault along with Rassier’s witness account is what Padden claim’s law enforcement had against Heinrich from the very beginning in 1989 and 1990.

“The evidence is clear that it was local agencies, primarily the BCA and the Stearns County Sheriff's Office, that completely blew this,” Padden said. “It was a desperate act of a sheriff who was intent on trying to convince people that he was doing something substantive and it would also help him get elected."

Rassier is now suing the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office and the BCA for defamation, negligence, conversion, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional destruction of personal property.

The lawsuit is just one means by which he looks for the sky to break and the cloud of suspicion cast over him for years to dissipate.

“There was a fear that he might be a murderer," Padden said. "It’s just despicable." 

Neither the BCA nor the Stearns County Sheriff's Office comments on pending litigation. Both entities declined to issue a statement or an on camera interview when contacted by Fox 9. 

Padden plans to announce more details about the civil rights suit on Tuesday. He expects this case to be in litigation before January 1, 2017.