Judge: Rassier attorneys can't question Wetterling killer

Daniel Rassier speaks at a press conference.
Daniel Rassier speaks at a press conference in 2016. A federal judge has ruled Wednesday that Rassier's attorneys will not be allowed to question Danny Heinrich, who confessed to killing Jacob Wetterling.
Sam Harper | MPR News 2016

A federal judge has ruled that attorneys for a man wrongly suspected of kidnapping Jacob Wetterling will not be allowed to interview confessed killer Danny Heinrich.

Attorneys for Dan Rassier sought to depose Heinrich as part of their civil lawsuit against Stearns County, former Sheriff John Sanner and two investigators.

In 2010, Sanner publicly called Rassier a "person of interest" in the 1989 disappearance of 11-year-old Wetterling near St. Joseph, Minn.

Rassier was cleared in 2016, when Heinrich confessed to kidnapping and killing Jacob, and led authorities to his remains buried on a Paynesville, Minn., farm.

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Rassier and his mother Rita sued Sanner, Stearns County and two investigators, claiming Dan Rassier's rights were violated.

In November 2017, U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank dismissed Rassier's claims of unlawful search and seizure. He also dismissed claims against Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Ken McDonald.

But Frank let stand Rassier's claims that Sanner defamed him and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

In their motion filed in November, Rassier's attorneys argued that they should be allowed to depose Heinrich, who is serving a 20-year sentence in a federal prison for child pornography.

They wanted to ask Heinrich about vehicles he drove at the time of the abduction and his interactions with law enforcement.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois ruled that Rassier's attorneys failed to show how the information they sought from Heinrich is relevant to the remaining claims.

Brisbois wrote that Heinrich has no knowledge of what Stearns County investigators knew at the time Rassier was named a person of interest, or their motivations for doing so.