ST. CLOUD -- The Wetterling's are suing the Stearns County Sheriff's Office. The county intended to release the Jacob Wetterling case file on Monday but has since postponed the release due the lawsuit.

Patty and Jerry Wetterling are asking a judge to review the case file and block out certain documents to protect the privacy of people who are mentioned in the file.

The Stearns County Sheriff's Office held a news conference Friday afternoon. Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall says hundreds of sexual assault victims are identified in the Wetterling case file.

"In conjunction with the Sheriff's Office, we have followed the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to the best of our ability, but find that the law does not allow us to protect these victims's wishes and interests. We have multiple requests for the release of this closed criminal investigation. Due to it's now pending legal action, release of the file will be delayed until a judge has had a chance to review exactly what is disputed."

However, Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson says his office is still working closely with Wetterlings despite the lawsuit.

"I want it known that there is no animosity between the Wetterling family and the Stearns County Sheriff's Office even with the lawsuit filed. We have always enjoyed a positive working relationship with their family."

Gudmundson says protecting victims privacy as well as abiding by the law has caused the challenges concerning the release of the Wetterling file.

"The struggle here is balancing our need to protect the privacy of victims and state law that requires the release of a closed investigative file."

The Wetterling's attorney, Kelley, Wolter & Scott released the following statement regarding the case file:

"We recognize, as do our clients, that once Jacob’s file was closed the vast majority of documents in the criminal investigative file would be made public under Minnesota law. We have filed a lawsuit today asking that a judge review a very small proportion of those documents that we believe should not be disclosed since they violate the Wetterlings’ constitutionally protected privacy. Nothing that we’re asking to be protected is germane to the central facts of this crime, neither does this information relate to the public’s interest in the transparent operation of government. This case has gone on for a long time. We certainly can take a few more days or weeks to make sure the Wetterlings aren’t victimized again."

Jacob Wetterling was abducted in St. Joseph in October 1989. Danny Heinrich admitted to kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering Jacob last September. Heinrich is currently serving a 20 year sentence for child pornography charges.

Chrissy Gaetke, WJON
Chrissy Gaetke, WJON

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