$500,000 bail set in Wayzata man's molestation case

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 5, 2010 - 9:37 AM

William Franklin Wanner, a wealthy Wayzata businessman, is accused of molesting a 10-year-old at the Minneapolis Club. His passport also was seized.

A wealthy Twin Cities businessman charged with molesting a 10-year-old girl at the Minneapolis Club was ordered to post a half-million dollar bail before being released from the Hennepin County Jail on Monday.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said William Franklin Wanner's financial success and international ties led authorities to take the unusual step of setting bail at $500,000 and seizing his passport.

"This guy has the sophistication and means to be in Bolivia tomorrow," Freeman said.

A court hearing on the case is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court, video surveillance showed that Wanner, 67, fondled the girl, whose mother is an acquaintance of his, at the club on 2nd Avenue S. on two occasions in December.

Wanner, whose driver's license lists an address in Wayzata, is a successful businessman and licensed attorney who is not actively practicing, Freeman said Monday.

Records show that Wanner is affiliated with Wanner Engineering Inc., a maker of industrial pumps, and has been a significant contributor to local and national Republican candidates.

A man who answered the phone at the company Monday afternoon declined to comment.

According to two felony charges alleging second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a witness who was swimming laps in the club pool on Dec. 27 saw Wanner in the pool with the girl.

The witness said that about 3:50 p.m., Wanner pulled down the girl's bathing suit and placed his hand inside the suit. The witness told authorities that she immediately reported what she had seen to management at the club.

Surveillance video obtained by police corroborated accounts from a witness and the girl and also showed that after the pool incident, Wanner and the girl went into the club's hot tub, the complaint said. There, he pulled her to a corner, positioned himself behind her and placed his hands on her groin area for several minutes, according to the complaint. Wanner also turned the girl to face him and they took turns touching Wanner's groin area, the charges said. Then they both went into the women's changing room, according to the charges.

Surveillance video also showed a similar encounter between Wanner and the girl in the hot tub on Dec. 5, according to the complaint.

Although the charges said Wanner often took the girl to the club, it's unclear how long Wanner had known the girl. Freeman said that an investigation into "other crimes of this nature" involving Wanner is ongoing. "I'm appalled," Freeman said. "It's just awful."

Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391

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