History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dan Rassier and the anatomy of a railroading

Dan Rassier, superb trumpet player
The subject of Jacob Wetterling faded pretty quickly after we got the incredible news of the case's resolution. The initial headlines were sensational. Yes, despite all the talk about the fading print media, we still depend on the Star Tribune.
I would guess most people are like me, having spent years rather convinced that this case would never be satisfactorily resolved, with a known offender identified. 
Yes, things have quieted down. But I do feel some very interesting books - and maybe a movie? - will appear? A movie? The idea, in my mind, would be to feel inspired by the new media and its potential to open doors in a longstanding investigation. The hero in effect would be Joy Baker. Baker had to fight past law enforcement people who were rigid in having rejected her theory. Alone she might not have moved the mountains that needed to be moved. The power of her blog was considerable. But a new ally was needed. And, that new ally came from the old media, not newspapers but television. John Walsh became intrigued by the blog and the new direction it suggested in the investigation. 
The Wetterling investigation has been described as "massive and flailing." Because of this, the professionals in law enforcement, I'm quite sure, were feeling exasperation. The last thing you'd want to be, in an investigation like this, was a "person of interest." And this brings us to the very sad case of Daniel Rassier. My blood boils as I learn that law enforcement isn't even letting go of the guy, not even with the case resolved. Law enforcement appears perfectly content letting this man be "collateral damage," and doesn't give a rip about the normal human instinct of caring for his welfare.
Law enforcement is showing its worst instincts in this episode vs. Rassier. Law enforcement is made up of human beings with the normal human failings. They should at least examine themselves and realize there are times they ought to pull back. We all need some humility at times. Maybe behind closed doors, people like John Sanner have been told to adjust their attitude since the immediate aftermath of the Wetterling resolution. Sanner is Stearns County sheriff. I never thought he came off well in the Walsh TV special on CNN. 
John Sanner, sheriff
John Walsh added his considerable muscle to what Baker was doing on the localized level. You would think law enforcement would just be interested in determining the facts. These people have political impulses, though, the impulses to want to protect themselves, to not be embarrassed or humiliated, or to be in a position to lose their job. Law enforcement made a horrible decision to focus on Rassier.
And now, even more tragically, Sanner cannot let go of the negative fixation on Rassier, who did absolutely nothing to bring the horrible glare of this investigation on himself.
A photo that included Sanner was on the front page of the September 24-25 (weekend) edition of the Willmar newspaper. The Wetterlings stood behind him. I think Sanner looked beleaguered. He can say what he wants, but the investigation was a failure, having covered 27 years before the pieces were put together. Turns out the perp was someone who was suspected from early-on. The perp demanded a lawyer when first confronted. That essentially put an end to any vise that might have closed on him.
Rassier did not immediately seek a lawyer. He was innocent and felt he should just try to answer questions to help the investigation.
 
Violation of a social norm
I have long thought that Rassier's biggest handicap was this: he was an adult living with his parents. Back in 1989, this arrangement was much more stigmatized than today. Because of the college loan debt of today, and a challenging job market, many college grads move back in with parents. I see no prima facie reasons to look down on the arrangement. It is condemned by many for no other reason than a loose sense of social norms. OK, it doesn't seem normal or natural. But today it is a daunting task to be a young adult. Families can stick together with its members in mutually supportive roles.
And most importantly, adult children are by far the best caregivers to aging parents in this age when medical science extends lifespans so far. Professional caregivers are limited by the number of hours they get compensated for. The feel-good volunteer programs where some college-age person shows up for an hour a day are of very limited value. Family members are motivated by love and not monetary compensation.
Our societal attitude may be slowly changing. But in 1989, any mention of an adult living with parents would raise eyebrows. These notions of what's "normal" never reflected rational thought. Society once rejected gays because of less than rational thought. Political correctness has been a good thing. We are less likely to look down on lifestyle choices.
Rassier was always a responsible and productive person. Even if he had not been, he didn't deserve to be thrust into the focus of an investigation that sought to find someone who abducted, molested and killed an 11-year-old boy.
Rassier is one year younger than me. We were students together at St. Cloud State University once. We were slightly acquainted, being together in the trumpet section of the SCSU concert band.
Dan was days from his 34th birthday and home alone on his family's farm when Jacob was abducted from the road at the end of the Rassiers' driveway on the night of October 22, 1989. His life was transformed quickly.
He was detailed in describing his day, more detailed, I'm sure, than I would be in this situation. Heaven help me if I was sat down for such questioning, because I'm just not that observant. I get lost in what I'm doing or what I'm thinking about. I suppose I'd get nailed.
 
It only got worse
Helpful as Rassier appeared to be, we learn that "he couldn't provide details about the time frame during Jacob's abduction." He was now on a slippery slope toward hell, toward losing friends and being stigmatized. A trumpet master, he found his services were not longer desired at weddings etc. His private music lessons virtually dried up.
Let's fast-forward to September of 2016 and Sanner making public comments on the heels of the incredible resolution of the Wetterling case. There is a subhead in the Willmar paper coverage: "Clearing a name." But after reading the sentences underneath, I'm wondering if Rassier wanted to say "thanks, I think."
Sheriff Sanner behaved in a totally irresponsible manner, apparently not realizing the power of his position as sheriff to affect people's reputation. We now know that Rassier is 100 percent innocent. With that knowledge, law enforcement ought to be reluctant to even mention his name, even if a question refers to him. The proper answer by Sanner and others would be: "The wrongdoer has been identified and incarcerated, and there are no other suspects or persons of interest." Period.
Law enforcement has very real egg on its face. The investigation was set back ten years by their decision to conclude that the abductor was on foot, not in a vehicle. Law enforcement was wrong. Getting them to think that or to say that is like trying to get "Fonzie" to say "wrong." Remember?
 
No regrets? Really?
The full force of law enforcement came down on Rassier for a time. What does Sanner say now? He said that "if he had to do it over again, he would have done the same thing based on the way Rassier answered questions, the fact that he was there alone that night and other details included in those search warrants."
Rassier must not have given false information to law enforcement, because that would be a crime.
Couldn't Sanner have expressed some regret? Even if the sheriff doesn't regret what happened to Rassier, couldn't he regret how the investigation took off in such a horribly wrong direction? I have read extensively about the case and have never come across anything that would suggest a direct connection between Rassier and the crime.
Rassier surely felt the wrath of God, as it were, once law enforcement began snarling and putting pressure on him, even pressure to "confess." The whole ordeal is Exhibit 'A' in why defense attorneys are an essential element in our criminal justice system.
Sanner seemed to pooh-pooh bloggers in the John Walsh special. He said "bloggers can speculate," as if he and his fellow interrogators were not themselves on a wild goose chase of speculation, even digging up the Rassiers' property. A judge was skeptical of the basis to approve a search warrant for that, but the green light was given anyway. The investigation was in a fishbowl.
The Internet has evolved as all new systems evolve. There was a time when "blogging" invited some derision. Today we're more realistic and realize that blogging is simply "unattached journalism" (unattached to a company) that happens to use an online platform. There is a meritocracy to it. Without Baker and Walsh, the Wetterling case would never have been solved.
What's left for Rassier? He evidently is going to sue, and I hope he and his lawyers are able to thoroughly document all the bad things done to him.
Ann Reischel, a lifelong resident of St. Joseph Township and the town clerk, said she always knew Rassier couldn't have harmed Jacob, but she knows some people wondered about him. "I just don't think any apology (from law enforcement) is going to be big enough," she said. "The continual interrogation, and asking Dan to admit it - and he kept saying 'No, I didn't do it.' It's got to be frustrating."
Rassier said he thought he was helping and because of the experience, he no longer trusts law enforcement. "It's impossible to fix what they broke," he said.
We must always be vigilant vs. the power of the state and its monopoly law enforcement apparatus. This is what libertarianism is all about. Sometimes we learn this the hard way.
Here's a suggestion: The state legislature should pass a bill calling for the immediate execution of the murderer, even though such a bill would only be symbolic. The courts would obviously strike it down.
I will repeat the suggestion that Rassier be invited to play the National Anthem on his trumpet for a Minnesota Vikings game. I know from firsthand observation that he's a virtuoso. He should delay his retirement in order to make up for lost time. He has much to offer with his talents, and he can still salvage a normal life in his years that remain. He could be an inspiration.
 
I have also written about this subject on my primary website, "I Love Morris." You may click on this link:
 
Addendum: The Wetterling case has always been scary because of the complete mystery it presented. A child just disappears and then anyone can be a suspect. When Rassier's name became public as a "person of interest" - a Scarlet Letter if there ever was one - I considered putting a paragraph in my blog indicating that I was a past acquaintance of Dan's. A Morris friend of mine implored me "don't!" His point was that if I did this, even I might get swept into the whole mess, that "massive, flailing" investigation. There were something like 50,000 leads. What if the following scenario had happened: The perp, wanting to divert any attention from himself, goes to the burial site, retrieves that shirt or jacket that had "Wetterling" on the back, then takes it to the Rassier property in the middle of the night, buries it, and then it turns up in the law enforcement excavation? Can you imagine the headlines the next day? And yet, it would prove nothing. The Wetterling episode of 27 years in Minnesota history is unique and haunting. It seems a miracle we finally got all the facts. So we're relieved and yet not really feeling satisfied at all. I thank the good Lord that Mr. Dan Rassier can again mix in society without that Scarlet Letter assigned him by a desperate law enforcement.
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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