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Feds talk to suspect

Federal prosecutors have met twice with the attorney defending Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. - including once in the Grand Forks jail with Rodriguez, who is charged with kidnapping Dru Sjodin.

Federal prosecutors have met twice with the attorney defending Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. - including once in the Grand Forks jail with Rodriguez, who is charged with kidnapping Dru Sjodin.

The 22-year-old UND student has been missing since Nov. 22.

Court records made available Friday reveal for the first time that U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley in Fargo has been closely involved with the case that is being handled, so far, in Grand Forks District Court.

Although no one involved with the meetings would, or could, describe their purpose - because of a judge's gag order - other attorneys say the meetings point to negotiations with Rodriguez that may involve Sjodin's whereabouts.

Two meetings


Wrigley confirmed Friday he had met twice with David Dusek, Rodriguez's court-appointed attorney: once Jan. 30 by telephone, when Grand Forks County State's Attorney Peter Welte was present with Dusek; once in person, Feb. 4, in the Grand Forks jail with Rodriguez present.

Rodriguez, 51, was arrested Dec. 1 and charged with kidnapping Sjodin from a Grand Forks shopping mall parking lot.

He remains in the Grand Forks County Correction Center under $5 million bond, awaiting a preliminary hearing Friday in Grand Forks District Court.

Dusek said in December that Rodriguez, a three-time convicted sex offender in Minnesota, denied any involvement in Sjodin's disappearance.

Also in December, Welte said he had no plans to seek federal involvement in the case but was ready to prosecute the kidnapping charge.

Gag order

Since District Judge Lawrence Jahnke issued a gag order to both sides Jan. 6, little official information has been available. Wrigley's office has declined to say much on the case, although it's been widely thought that the federal prosecutor's "lever" of the death penalty in certain crimes could be used to persuade Rodriguez to reveal what he knows about Sjodin's whereabouts.

Bill details


But details in the bill submitted by Grand Forks private investigator Ross Rolshoven for his services for Dusek in preparing his case indicate two long meetings, as well as letters from Welte and Wrigley's office, to Rodriguez and his attorney. Rolshoven's records show that Rodriguez's sister, who lives near Crookston, was contacted before and after the meetings.

Rolshoven turned in a bill for $4,386.80 to be paid by the court; Jahnke gave it final approval Wednesday.

Rolshoven billed all his work on the case to the district court, except a meeting Feb. 4 in the Grand Forks jail with Dusek, Wrigley, Rodriguez and others.

That meeting "will be billed to the federal government," Rolshoven wrote in the document filed in court Wednesday.

Asked about that, several attorneys experienced in criminal cases in state and federal courts said that was very unusual and indicates some agreement bringing federal prosecutors into the case. Perhaps, some speculated, a deal was reached in which Rodriguez would proffer information if Wrigley - assuming he takes on the case - does not pursue the death penalty.

Close contact

Wrigley would only say he's remained in close touch with Welte and Dusek on the case, as well as speaking with Sjodin's parents.

"It's obvious the FBI has been involved in this case from the very beginning, and we have been communicating with the state's attorney's office in the federal and state investigation," Wrigley told the Herald Friday. "I am not going to characterize (the meetings), except to say we have had those discussions."


The official search for Sjodin ended in December; law enforcement officials said cold and snow made it impractical and that all logical areas had been well searched by then.

But the search by family and friends of Sjodin has continued, through Friday, near Crookston.

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