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Tallahassee to Pay in Death of Informant Rachel Hoffman

Tallahassee, Florida, city commissioners last Friday voted to approve a $2.6 million settlement in the wrongful death suit of a young woman killed in a drug sting when she agreed to be a confidential informant for police after being busted on marijuana and ecstasy charges. The payout comes even as a similar killing is shaking the Detroit area.

Rachel Hoffman (facebook.com)
Rachel Hoffman, 23, a recent Florida State University graduate, inhabited student drug circles, but after she was busted and agreed to become a snitch in 2008, Tallahassee police sent her out into an entirely different world. They set up a "buy-bust" sting, giving Hoffman $13,000 in marked bills to buy ecstasy, cocaine, and a gun. Instead of completing the transaction, the two men targeted shot and killed her, stole the money, her credit cards, and her car, and left her body in a ditch. The killers were later caught and are now serving life sentences.

But Hoffman's parents sued after her death, claiming police were negligent in setting her up as an informant and putting her in harm's way. Jury selection in the case began two weeks ago, and the trial was set to begin Monday. After meeting with city attorneys, commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the settlement. The city itself will pay an initial $200,000 installment shortly, but under Florida law, the rest will only be paid after the Florida legislature passes a "claims bill," which could take years.

The city's settlement isn't the only fallout from Hoffman's killing. After her death, her parents lobbied for, and the legislature passed, "Rachel's Law," which mandated reforms to protect informants. Under that law, police who work with informants are also required to get special training, must allow them to talk with an attorney before agreeing to anything, and cannot promise them reduced sentences if they cooperate.

If Michigan had such a law, perhaps Shelley Hilliard would be alive today. The 19-year-old transgender woman was found murdered and mutilated on Detroit's east side in October after last being seen going to meet a man she had set up in a drug sting after being busted herself for marijuana.

In a Thursday preliminary hearing for Qasim Raqib, the man charged with her killing, testimony revealed that police told her she could avoid arrest by helping to set up a drug deal. She used her cell phone to call Raqib as police listened in on a speaker phone and told him she knew someone who wanted to buy $335 worth of marijuana and cocaine. He was arrested when he arrived at a local motel 20 minutes later.

Further testimony suggested Raqib called Hilliard two days later and urged her to meet him. A taxi driver who took Hilliard on all her calls testified she said she was worried that Raqib would seek payback over the drug bust. The taxi driver testified that after dropping her off, she called him and sounded fearful, and he then heard a sound like the phone dropping to the ground before it went dead. Her body was found hours later.

Tallahassee, FL
United States

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

In Fernandina Beach, Florida, the Nassau County Sheriff's Office is being investigated by the FBI in a wide ranging corruption and civil rights abuses probe. Allegations include Sheriff Tommy Seagraves blocking the drug prosecution of the wife of a close friend, detectives using steroids, job-related kickbacks, marijuana grow lamps and beer keg taps that disappeared after being seized in drug raids, physical assaults on drug suspects, improper use of department property, and ongoing misconduct in the narcotics unit. Part one of the Florida Times Union's two-part investigative report on the sordid story is available at the link above. Part two is forthcoming.

In Rogersville, Tennessee, a former Hawkins County sheriff's narcotics detective was indicted December 15 on charges he was stealing drugs from the evidence room. Brad Depew was hit with a 68-count indictment after he was caught on videotape breaking into the locked evidence room with a screwdriver and exiting with evidence envelopes containing drugs. A subsequent search of his home turned up unspecified quantities of  the Schedule II narcotics oxycodone and methadone, the Schedule III narcotic dihydrocodeinone, and Schedule IV tranquilizers alprazolam, diazepam and clonazepam, which matched the kinds of pills missing from the evidence room. The search also turned up 26 grams of cocaine, a half gram of meth, and drug paraphernalia, including scales, baggies, a pipe, screens, spoons and straws. None of that come from the evidence room, though. He faces 47 counts of evidence tampering, as well as possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of meth with intent to deliver, official misconduct, four counts of burglary, four counts of possession of burglary tools, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, two counts of theft under $500 for the actual evidence envelopes, and six counts of misdemeanor drug possession for the drugs found at his residence. Depew worked as a detective on the HCSO Narcotics Unit and 3rd Judicial District Drug Task Force for more than a decade. He is free on $100,000 bond pending trial.

In Atlanta, two Talbot County sheriff's deputies pleaded guilty December 14 to ripping off drugs and money from motorists they targeted. Deputies Alvin Malone and Jeff Sivell admitting using a confidential informant to identify vehicles carrying drugs and drug money, then seizing the dope and cash and splitting it with the snitch. Each pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Hobbs Act, or attempted extortion by a public official. They will be sentenced in February and are looking at up to 20 years in federal prison.

In St. Louis, a former St. Louis sheriff's deputy pleaded guilty December 14 to charges he bought heroin while on duty and chauffeured a drug dealer around the city. Jason Stewart, 31, copped to a single count of being a drug addict in possession of a firearm. He went down after he went to an area of the city known for drug dealing that happened to be under federal and local police surveillance. He had just conducted a transaction when he was pulled over, and police found a fifth of a gram of heroin, drug paraphernalia, and a bottle of urine wrapped in a hand warmer, which he said he carried with him to thwart drug tests. He faces up to 10 years in prison, but will reportedly be sentenced to 18 to 30 months.

In Beaumont, Texas, a Beaumont police officer resigned Monday after being accused of leaking confidential information in a drug investigation. Officer Eugene Wilson had been suspended with pay. No charges are being filed against him.

In Haskell, Texas, a former Haskell police officer was sentenced Monday to seven years probation for planting drugs in a man's vehicle. William Glass had resigned from the department last year just before he was about to take a lie detector test over an allegation that he planted methamphetamine in a man's vehicle during a traffic stop. He was indicted on charges of fabricating physical evidence, possession of a controlled substance, and official oppression, but he copped a plea to just the first count. The meth had come from an earlier drug bust.

Virginia Police Kill Old Man in Pill Raid

[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

Police in Hampton, Virginia, executing a search warrant for prescription pain pills shot and killed a 69-year-old homeowner after he fired on them inside the house. William Cooper becomes the 30th person killed in US domestic law enforcement operations so far this year.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/hampton-police-badge.jpg
According to the Daily Press Hampton News, police sought a search warrant after a confidential informant told them Cooper had sold methadone, Percocet, and "several other unknown prescription pills" from his home. Police executed the warrant just after 10:00am Saturday, forcing his front door open and entering the residence.

Hampton Police spokesman Jason Price said police identified themselves when they arrived at the house. "We did knock and announce our presence," he said. "It was not a no-knock search warrant."

A common police practice in executing warrants is to announce their presence with loud knocks on the doors and shouts of "Police!" or similar phrases, then wait a matter of seconds before breaking down the door, effectively making them knock and announce raids in technical legal terms only. Neighbors reported the police had forced their way in, and the door was visibly broken.

Price said there was an exchange of gunfire, with Cooper shooting first and the officers firing back. Cooper was pronounced dead at a local hospital an hour later.

Police announced Tuesday
they had seized four prescription pain pill bottles -- three of them empty -- and a number of weapons in the retiree's home. They consisted of one empty bottle of Oxycontin and three bottles of Oxycodone-acetaminophen (Percocet), with one containing pills. They also seized 16 other pill bottles, including ones containing drugs used for treating the symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Police also seized Cooper's wallet, $903 in cash, and his 2000 Lexus, as well as a vehicle title and "financial documents." They alleged the 11-year-old car was connected to the drug sales.

"We did locate evidence that supports the charge of distribution of illegal narcotics," police spokesman Jason Price said Tuesday. Police did not say whether Cooper had prescriptions for the pain pills.

But friends of Cooper said he used a cane, suffered from knee and back pain, and took lots of pain medications. Cooper complained that the drugs he was taking "weren't enough" for the pain, said Richard Zacharias, 58, a retired NASA employee who was renting a trailer home from Cooper. He also said that Cooper had poor eyesight because of cataracts and often slept late. Those factors might have caused him not to realize it was police in his home at 10:00am, Zacharias said.

But Price said police would continue to identify themselves as they moved through the home. "It's very obvious that we're the police," he said.

"It doesn’t smell right," Zacharias protested. "He wasn't real big, he wasn't real threatening." The police killed Cooper "in his own house, and that doesn't sit right with me," he said. "People around here sleep with a gun beside their bed because of all the home invasions we've had. The guy was a nice guy. The guy was a good guy."

The two so far unnamed police shooters are now on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation. But Hampton Police Chief Charles Jordan Jr. didn't see any need to wait for that. "The investigation thus far supports the actions of the officers," Jordan said Saturday. "They were met with deadly force and had no alternative other than to return fire."

Hampton, VA
United States

Pennsylvania SWAT Team Kills Meth Cooker in Drug Raid

[[Editor's Note: This year, Drug War Chronicle is trying to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at psmith@drcnet.org.]

A member of a Pennsylvania state police SWAT team shot and killed a Wayne Township man during an early morning drug raid Wednesday. Jeffrey Wolfe, 56, becomes the 24th person to be killed in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year.

Jeffrey Wolfe was shot and killed in a dawn drug raid in Pennsylvania after police said he pointed a gun at them in his bedroom.
According to police, members of the state police Special Emergency Response Team were executing a search warrant for a meth lab. They identified themselves as police, then entered the house and encountered Wolfe in a bedroom, where he pointed a loaded pump-action shotgun at them. One of the team members then opened fire on Wolfe, striking him twice in the chest. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

A woman who police have not identified was also in the home. She was not injured, and police said she is part of the ongoing investigation.

An affidavit of probable cause attached to the warrant said a confidential informant had made three controlled meth buys from Wolfe in recent weeks. The SERT team was called on to execute the warrant because of the "paranoia associated with a long-time user of methamphetamine," and the presence of guns and an active meth lab. Police said using the SERT team was the "prudent" thing to do.

Troopers found an operational meth lab, chemicals, and another weapon at the scene, as well as video surveillance equipment. Police said Wolfe had a monitor in his bedroom to see who was approaching the house, but they didn't say it it was turned on.

The unnamed state trooper who shot Wolfe has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the killing. That will be handled by the Schuykill County district attorney's office.

Summit Station, PA
United States

Senate Unanimously Confirms Leonhart as DEA Head

The US Senate December 22 unanimously confirmed Michele Leonhart as DEA adminstrator. Leonhart, a long-time DEA veteran, had served as acting administrator since late in the Bush administration and was nominated to head the agency by the Obama administration.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mleonhart.jpg
Michele Leonhart
Drug reformers and concerned others had attempted last this year to block her nomination, citing her supervision of numerous raids on medical marijuana providers when she was Special Agent in Chief in Los Angeles, her refusal to allow a Massachusetts academic permission to grow marijuana for research purposes, and her unsavory relationship with former DEA "supersnitch" Andrew Chambers.

But those efforts got no traction in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where senators failed to ask a single tough question raised by reformers. The only flak Leonhart got in the committee was from Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Herb Kohl (D-WI), who complained about strict DEA drug diversion programs that made it difficult for seniors in nursing homes to receive pain medications in a prompt and timely fashion.

Kohl went so far as to announce a hold on her nomination to block a floor vote because of the issue, but although Leonhart refused during her confirmation hearing to tell him when the DEA would respond on the issue, Kohl lifted the hold before the vote, allowing her confirmation to go ahead.

Washington, DC
United States

Scratch-And-Sniff Marijuana Cards Used In Dutch Drug Campaign

Location: 
Netherlands
In a government effort to curb what is perhaps their nation's best-known vice, Dutch households will soon receive marijuana-scented scratch-and-sniff cards to help them detect illegal urban cannabis plantations in their vicinity. According to Rotterdam authorities, over 30,000 cards are being distributed this week to help citizens identify marijuana's pungent odor. Each of the 8-by-4 inch cards, which bear the slogan "Assist in combatting cannabis plantations," contain two boxes which can be scratched to release the cannabis scent, along with the telephone number of a local police precinct.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/09/scratchandsniff-marijuana_n_780964.html

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Crookedness in the Wayne County, Michigan, court system; endemic corruption in Camden; a tweaker cop in Iowa; and another pair of jail guards go bad. Let's get to it:

evidence room
In Detroit, a retired Wayne County judge, a retired Wayne County drug prosecutor, and two former Inkster police officers were ordered last week to stand trial on felony charges related to a perjury-tainted 2005 cocaine trial. Retired Judge Mary Waterstone, former Wayne County drug prosecutor Karen Plants, and former Inkster police officers Robert McArthur and Scott Rechtzigel are accused of conspiring to hide the role of a secret paid informant in a 47-kilo cocaine bust. Waterstone faces four felony counts of official misconduct, Plants is charged with conspiracy, McArthur is charged with conspiracy, perjury, and misconduct in office, and Rechtzigel is charged with perjury and conspiracy. Waterstone is accused of privately agreeing with prosecutors to hide the identity of the informant and allowing the informant and the two police officers to lie on the stand about the nature of their relationship.

In Camden, New Jersey, two Camden police officers were charged October 13 with falsifying evidence in drug cases in an ongoing scandal that has caused prosecutors to drop more than 200 criminal cases. Officers Antonio Figueroa, 34, and Robert Bayard, 32, were members of a special operations unit assigned to crack down on open-air drug markets, but five unit members became drug traffickers themselves. They are accused of stealing from some suspects, planting drugs on others, threatening to plant drugs to coerce cooperation, paying informants with drugs, keeping drugs for their own use, conducting illegal searches, giving false testimony and filing false reports between 2007 and last year. Three other officers have already been charged in the year-long investigation. Figueroa and Bayard had been on suspension for the past year. Figueroa faces eight charges and Bayard five. For both, the most serious is conspiracy to violate the civil rights of a citizen, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In Des Moines, Iowa, a former Pleasant Hill police officer was sentenced last Friday to three years' probation for stealing methamphetamine from the department evidence room and crashing his police SUV while tweaking. Former officer Dan Edwards had pleaded guilty to DUI, illegal drug possession, and third-degree burglary. Edwards went down after the April crash, when a state trooper reported finding meth on him. Edwards' attorney said he suffered post traumatic stress disorder after tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and this his wife and infant son had been killed in a car crash years earlier.

In Pensacola, Florida, a former Escambia County Road Prison corrections officer was found guilty last Thursday of providing Xanax to a prisoner in exchange for oral sex. Lawrence Vieitez was convicted on charges of delivery of a controlled substance, introducing contraband into a county detention facility and solicitation to commit prostitution. He went down after an inmate complained about his advances. The inmate was then wired, and a deputy was able to listen in as Vieitez offered to procure Xanax in exchange for oral sex. Vieitez then left to obtain the Xanax and was arrested when he gave it to the inmate. He's looking at up to 20 years in prison.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a former Passaic County corrections officer was sentenced last Friday to five years in state prison for smuggling heroin and homemade weapons into the Passaic County Jail. Former guard Marvin Thompson, 41, has no chance at early parole. During trial, prosecutors argued that Thompson smuggled the contraband into the jail with the intention of "discovering" it so he would look like a hero. He was then a provisional employee and hoped to win a permanent post. But an inmate working with Thompson snitched him out, and when he reported finding 10 packets of heroin, he was arrested. He was convicted of second degree official misconduct, possession of heroin, and filing false police reports.

Lethal Sting: How the War on Drugs Killed a College Student

Location: 
Tallahassee, FL
United States
The Tallahassee Police Department isn't getting any medals; they're the targets of a massive lawsuit. And Rachel Hoffman is dead, shot with the very gun the cops sent her to buy.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vince-beiser/lethal-sting-how-the-war-_b_767197.html

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Whew! Sex, drugs, strippers, and a federal judge, oh, my! Plus a murder-plotting meth-head trooper, another crooked border inspector, more Philly cops trying to rip off drug dealers, and an Oklahoma narc helping send guns down Mexico way.

We don't typically mention cases of drug use (or paying for sex) in this feature, but when it's a federal judge cavorting like a degenerate rock star, we think it's worth noting. In between coke-fueled trysts, this guy was hearing drug cases. That said, let's get to it:

In Atlanta, a federal judge was arrested last Friday on charges he bought and used drugs with an Atlanta stripper with whom he was having a sexual relationship. Senior US District Judge Jack Camp Jr., 67, is accused of buying and using cocaine, marijuana, hydrocodone, and roxydocone as he partied with the exotic dancer. When FBI agents arrested him, they found two illegal firearms and a bag containing blue pills and a white powder in his car. He has been released on a $50,000 unsecured bond. Camp went down because the stripper was also an FBI snitch who became cooperative with the feds after a drug conviction. The pair met on multiple occasions to get high and get down, with Camp typically (although not always) providing the money and the stripper providing the sex and drugs. She recorded Camp talking about the drug deals.

In San Diego, a border inspector was arrested last Thursday for allegedly taking bribes to allow illegal immigrants and nearly five tons of pot to make it through the San Ysidro and Otay Mesas border crossings. US Customs and Border Patrol Officer Lorne Leslie Jones is charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, bribery, and immigrant smuggling. He faces 10 years on the first count and five years each on the latter two.

In Philadelphia, two Philadelphia police officers were arrested Monday for robbing a drug dealer, except, unfortunately for them, the drug dealer was actually an undercover officer working a sting. Officers Sean Alivera, 31, and Christopher Luciano, 23, are charged with robbery, false imprisonment, and related charges. At least five Philadelphia officers have been charged or convicted of trying to rip off drug dealers in the past year.

In Auburn, California, a former California Highway Patrol officer pleaded no contest Monday to methamphetamine and attempted murder charges. Ruben Salgado, a 12-year CHP veteran, had been arrested in May after buying meth from an informant and was arrested again in June after trying to hire someone to kill the snitch. In a plea deal, he copped to attempted murder, driving under the influence of meth, and meth possession while carrying a gun. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

In Oklahoma City, a former state narcotics officer pleaded guilty September 29 to federal charges in a gun-running ring where some of the weapons ended up in Mexico. Former Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Agent Francisco Javier Reyes admitted taking money to buy "military-type" rifles in Oklahoma for a Mexican national and paying two friends to purchase rifles for him. He pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy and transferring firearms to an out-of-state resident. Each crime carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He's out on bail awaiting sentencing.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

One narcotics supervisor sexually assaults a female snitch, another makes off with the drug buy money. A pair of jail guards go down after getting caught having sex in a car in a parking lot. And that's just for starters. Let's get to it:

where's the cash?
In Athens, Ohio, the head of the Athens County Narcotics Task Force was arraigned last Friday on charges he sexually assaulted a female undercover informant. Deputy Jerry Hallowell, 43, faces three counts of sexual battery and one count of attempted sexual battery. The sexual batteries occurred August 6, September 3, and September 5, while the attempted battery occurred on September 9. Hallowell is looking at up to 16 years in prison if convicted on all counts. He is out on $50,000 bond and has been suspended with pay pending further action by the department.

In Syracuse, New York, a former Syracuse police officer pleaded guilty Monday to charges he ran a drug trafficking operation from his home and sexually abused two teenage boys. Fredrick Baunee, 49, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of first-degree sexual abuse and one felony count of fourth-degree conspiracy. He was arrested in May for running a drug ring from his home and using the teens as dealers and for sexual activities. Braun was suspended from the police force in 2007 and retired after being convicted of giving alcohol to and inappropriately touching a 14-year-old boy. He will be sentenced to seven years in prison, but remains free on $100,000 bail until formal sentencing in November.

In Durham, North Carolina, a former Durham County narcotics supervisor was indicted September 7 for allegedly stealing nearly $100,000 in sheriff's department funds for paying informants and making drug buys. Former Lt. Derek O'Mary faces 26 counts of embezzlement and one count each of obstructing justice and possession of cocaine. O'Mary, 43, was an 18-year veteran of the sheriff's office and had risen through the ranks to a lieutenant supervising the Sheriff’s Anti-Crime & Narcotics Unit. He was fired in April 2009 after his own narcs snitched him out.

In Gaffney, South Carolina, money from a recent drug bust has gone missing and the Cherokee County sheriff wants to know where it went. Sheriff Bill Blanton has called in the State Law Enforcement Division to try to find out what happened to the undisclosed amount of cash missing from the Cherokee County narcotics division

In Philadelphia, three former Philadelphia police officers already facing corruption charges were hit with new ones September 9. Robert Snyder, Jamez Venziale, and Mark Williams were charged in July with plotting with a suspected drug dealer to steal drugs in a staged traffic stop. Now the three face additional charges of possession with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school. Snyder and Williams were also charged with planning to rob a man they believed was a mobster collecting gambling proceeds. Authorities say that plot was never carried out. 

In Lebanon, Ohio, two former Warren Correctional Institution guards were indicted last Friday on drug charges after they were caught having sex in a vehicle with hundreds of pills and a note about inmates getting illegal drugs. Annika Skinner, 36, faces nine counts of deception to obtain drugs and a single misdemeanor drug possession count. Herbert Cook, 61, faces one count of drug trafficking. Skinner is looking at up to 19 years in prison and Cook is looking at one. Both had resigned as prison guards in July as authorities investigated after they were discovered going at it in May in a parking lot. Police recovered more than 100 pills, as well as plastic bags and the note indicating inmates were getting drugs. Both are free on bail.

In Sonora, California, a former prison guard at the Sierra Conservation Center was sentenced last week to a year in county jail for smuggling marijuana to an inmate. Matthew McCollum, 28, was convicted of bringing pot to an inmate in 2008 and 2009.

In Graceville, Georgia, a Graceville Correctional Facility guard was arrested September 8 on charges he planned to smuggle marijuana into the jail. Guard Brandon Sikora, 21, went down after agreeing to take a half-pound of pot into the jail and pocketing $2,000 for his efforts. The man who Sikora met with was a police informant. Now Sikora is charged with attempting to introduce contraband into a secure facility and possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana with intent to distribute. He has also been placed on suspension from the correctional facility pending the outcome of an investigation.

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