|I considered this futile. (APM image)|
I wrote a long time ago that authorities might show hesitance pushing this matter to conclusion. The conclusion would be coming 27 years into this high-profile investigation. People (like me) turned gray wondering if there might ever be a ray of hope. That little boy seemed suspended in time: eleven years old. The investigation also seemed suspended, hopeless. And yet the wheels were turning feverishly.
Why might key public servants hold back on pushing this investigation to its end? Just like that fictional commander from "Rambo II," extraneous considerations could hover and cause hesitance. I have written before that resolution could open the door to lawsuits from people who were interrogated in a heavy-handed way. Law enforcement was under intense pressure to show it was making progress.
How do we define "progress?" Do we define it as actually leading to what the public obviously wanted: pinning down the guilty party, charging him etc.? But law enforcement might have a different attitude, one of just pushing certain buttons to follow procedures that might seem headed in the right direction, even though skepticism was called for.
Think of that wanted poster that was distributed all over. Every day when I'm at McDonald's, I'll probably see at least one guy come in the door that bears some resemblance to one of those drawings. They were like comic book drawings. I had a college art instructor who would describe it as "visual shorthand." People got paid to develop that poster and distribute it, complete with the hyperbolic words "we MUST FIND these men." Turns out one of the two drawings did look like the guilty party. But what about the other? Who was the origin of that? It was based upon an innocent party. Innocent parties were regularly dredged up in the investigation.
|The dubious John Sanner|
So law enforcement went on this massive search, certainly costing a great deal. Law enforcement had its agenda and obligations. Book authors and bloggers had no such blinders. John Walsh used the power of his nationally broadcast show to steer us in the right direction. The FBI was involved in this case. Nevertheless, it came down to a particular blogger and the attention she received on Walsh's show. Neither is compensated for law enforcement services. Yet they became the heroes.
Now the Stearns County Sheriff's Department has to defend against the predicted lawsuit from this gentleman named Dan Rassier.
This new fuss is caused by the resolution of the case, the desired goal all along. And yet, to use the words of John Mitchell of Watergate, law enforcement has its "tit in a wringer" and instead of feeling euphoric, is scared (s--tless) and on the defensive. Oh they'll deny that. It's no picnic having lawyers swarm around, like that Anfinson guy of the Minnesota Newspaper Association who has worked to try to get a 9-1-1 recording released. And then there's the attorney for Rassier with whom I share best wishes and good luck.
Sheriff Sanner is on the hot seat. Is it true that Patty Wetterling, allegedly coached by the sheriff's department, wrote a letter to Rassier asking him to confess? To a crime of this magnitude of evil? Has she since apologized to Rassier, the elementary music teacher? Patty wore a wire at one point to accost Rassier.
Investigators got a search warrant in 2010 to dig on the Rassiers' property. I remember checking an online comment board at the time. There was a picture showing all the heavy equipment at the scene, all the commotion. Yes, all of this cost taxpayers' money. Someone wrote: "They had better be sure this is the guy." Hmmm.
Rassier was "guilty" of being an adult living with his parents, and that was the whole problem. It's a more commonly seen living arrangement today. Amazingly, Sanner was quoted in a September 24 news article saying he had no regrets about the investigative efforts toward Rassier. As a public servant, he should always regret when an innocent private citizen is hassled or abused. Sanner argued that suspicion vs. Rassier was justified based on "the way he answered questions." He would not elaborate, which would have been a nice favor for readers who had no knowledge of the background. So he just sort of smears Rassier with this ad hominem statement.
Rassier must have just "seemed guilty," in Sanner's view. But now that we know of the man's total innocence, isn't it time to stop talking like that? Isn't it in fact time to be generous and gentle with the innocent elementary music teacher? Sanner further justified the suspicion on the basis that Rassier was "there alone that night." Really? Is Rassier to be faulted for those two facts? Being at that location and being alone? He was on his own property. Does he not have the right to be on his own property and to be home alone? And yet Sanner cites this as a basis for suspicion.
"Shame on us if we don't do what we did," the sheriff was quoted saying.
No, shame on you anyway, Mr. Sanner. I'm sure you are justifiably embarrassed over how the whole Wetterling matter deteriorated into a whole bunch of people technically fulfilling their obligations, until eventually a couple parties motivated by pure zeal got involved and pushed the case to resolution. Sheriff Sanner, you are stupid and cold-hearted.
Let me elaborate this way: let's say a person steals $1,000 and gets away with it. That person can at least gain pleasure from spending the $1,000. In cases like Heinrich and Sandusky, normal people cannot conceive of any pleasure gained from the crime - it wouldn't cross our minds to commit it. We would obviously be revulsed at the thought. So we're punishing someone for doing something that normal people would not even conceive of? Heinrich must simply be put away. Condemning him is pointless.
What if Heinrich hadn't been into child porn? He might never have been arrested. His punishment won't even be for the Wetterling crime. It will be for the child porn. After 20 years he'll stay confined but it will be in a situation that is not defined as punishment - it's defined as treatment. I hope the treatment helps him - he had a very troubled background.
Holding law enforcement accountable
I'm not sure I'd want to be Rassier's lawyer because it's rather an uphill battle going after law enforcement. Efforts at holding law enforcement accountable seem to be breaking through and making progress. A police officer in the Twin Cities has been charged with a needless death.
We pray that this type of aggressive law enforcement will not come to Morris MN. But you never know. Us U.S. citizens have elected an all-out bully as president. We read Saturday of a judge who is apparently a slumlord in St. Cloud.
We have a retired judge here in Morris who once made an unbelievable comment at a public meeting that included the epitome of a racist term, for which Mayor Carol Wilcox issued a public apology in the newspaper.
We cannot assume that our public servants all carry themselves in an exemplary manner. And to think they're worried about me because I haven't always worn my seat belt in the past!
I'd be happy sometime to share the quote word for word from the retired judge. I imagine there'd be some people at UMM a little concerned or agitated. One more traffic stop and I could do this (share the quote). But of course, Mom and I always put on our seat belts automatically now. Maybe they'll catch me making a lane change without signalling, like that Sandra Bland down in Texas who lost her life because of it.
I'm pleased to know that my personal character is higher, apparently, than that of many people in our law enforcement/judicial system.