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Another Ryan Frederick Update

Radley Balko has much more information from Ryan Frederick's preliminary hearing, which I mentioned yesterday.

Of particular interest is the fact that special prosecutor Paul Ebert has threatened to file felony drug charges against Frederick, despite the fact that only a tiny amount of marijuana was recovered in the raid. The suspected marijuana grow that prompted the raid simply didn’t exist, so any new drug charges at this point are almost certainly a trumped-up character assassination designed to smear Frederick in front of the jury.

It's a critical move for Ebert, who clearly realizes that it will be hard to explain why Frederick would have shot a cop over a few flakes of pot. Unless Frederick can be painted as a hardened criminal, his persistent claim that he thought the police were burglars would likely prevail.

It is just amazing the amount of effort being put into prosecuting an innocent man for a murder that wasn't his fault, all so that the real killer (the drug war) can remain on the loose.

Ryan Frederick Formally Charged With First Degree Murder

Radley Balko reports:

He was formally charged with first degree murder and with the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. So yeah. They really are going to go through with this.

The misdemeanor marijuana possession charge was nolle prossed. Which means the reason the police tried to ram their way into Frederick’s house in the first place is now pretty much moot. They didn’t even find enough marijuana to merit a charge. Now they’re trying to make him pay for the consequences of their mistake.

So to recap, police charged into Ryan Frederick's home looking for a marijuana grow that didn’t exist. Mistaking the intruders for thieves, Ryan opened fire, killing a police officer. He's now charged with knowingly and deliberately killing a cop, even though that's the least plausible explanation for his actions.

Saanich police raid wrong house; family wants more than apology

Saanich, BC
The Province (BC)

Law Enforcement: Missouri Residents Sue Over Fake DEA Agent Busts

Seventeen residents of Gerald, Missouri, located in Franklin County, have filed federal lawsuits alleging that their arrests on drug charges were illegal because a fake DEA agent helped make them, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Sunday. The lawsuits, filed last week, came in the wake of a man now accused of duping Gerald officials into believing he was a bona fide federal agent on loan from the DEA.

Authorities admitted last week that the fake DEA agent, William Jakob, of Washington, Missouri, conducted drug raids and made arrests without legal authority. The police chief and two officers involved have already been fired. Jakob has yet to be charged with any crime.

The plaintiffs in the civil rights lawsuits allege that Jakob and Gerald police officers burst into their homes in April and May, pointed guns at their heads, damaged property, took money, and made arrests. The suits name city officials, police, and Jakob as defendants and say police should have verified Jakob's identity.

One suit filed by 11 people seeks $11 million for each plaintiff. Another suit filed by six people did not specify damages sought.

Rachel Hoffman's Family Issues an Urgent Call for Change

The mother of slain drug war victim Rachel Hoffman has started the Rachel Morningstar Foundation to advocate legislation requiring legal counsel for prospective drug informants as well as decriminalization of marijuana in Florida. You can make a donation here.

For anyone still catching up on Hoffman's story, this heartbreaking video is a good starting point:

Rachel was involved in NORML and SSDP. She was one of us, and while I wish she'd thought better than to become an informant, we still don't know what threats police used to coerce her into assisting in the operation that took her life.

Rachel is someone we might have met at a conference someday. Someone who might have posted a comment on a drug policy blog or responded to an action alert. For whatever reason, that simple thought bothers me in an uncomfortable way that the drug war atrocities I cover daily often do not. It's a feeling I've had to shake off as I type, reminding myself that I've seen too much of this already to be rattled by the inevitable.

Every drug war victim has a story, each of them upsetting and important in its own way. We know all too well the common thread that binds these tragedies together and we'll stand without hesitation behind the Hoffmans as they've so bravely stepped forward so that their loss can become something positive, something Rachel would be proud of.

Cop Gets 4 ½ Years In Death Of 92-Year-Old

Atlanta, GA
United States
CBS News (US)

Who killed Rachel Hoffman?


In memory of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman...
December 17, 1984 -
May 7, 2008

Donate to the Rachel Morningstar Foundation

Dear Friend,

Nearly two weeks ago, an SSDP member lost her life in the crossfire of the War on Drugs.

Rachel Hoffman had just graduated from Florida State University, with plans to attend culinary school. As an undergrad, she was popular among her group of friends, many of whom she met through her involvement in FSU's chapters of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Like many college students, she shared marijuana with her friends, and would often "go in" on larger amounts in order to save money. And that's how she got busted.

Rachel was threatened with prison time, then promised a slap on the wrist if she agreed to wear a wire and set up a deal with her suppliers. Tallahassee police gave her $13,000 in cash and told her to purchase 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine, and a handgun. They never informed her attorney, family, or the state prosecutor before they sent Rachel into the lions' den that day. And nobody had the chance to tell her she was in way over her head.

After police found Rachel's body, they held a press conference and blamed her for her own death. Among Rachel's family and friends, sadness quickly turned into outrage and action. Last Wednesday, hundreds of students marched in protest of the role the Tallahassee Police Department played in Rachel's death. They held signs that read "Who Killed Rachel?" and "No More Drug War" while wearing t-shirts from SSDP and other allied organizations. Please take a moment to watch this powerful video of the demonstration:

Protest video

In her memory, Rachel's parents have established the Rachel Morningstar Foundation, the goal of which is to pass a law requiring legal advice to be sought before a civilian can consent to undercover work. They will also work to decriminalize marijuana in Florida. Please make a generous donation to the foundation today, and include a personal note to Rachel's parents if you are moved to do so.

In the meantime, Rachel's murderers must be brought to justice. But the drug dealers who pulled the trigger clearly aren't the only ones responsible for her death. They are the police who coerced her into being an informant and the politicians who justify waging a War on Drugs to "protect young people from drugs," while using those very same young people as pawns in their deadly game. On Wednesday, one protester's sign poignantly asked, "Do you feel safe?"

Whether you are a student, an alum, an educator, or a nonstudent, there are plenty of ways you can join with SSDP in the fight to replace the War on Drugs with policies of regulation and control that will actually make us safe.

But for today, I hope you'll take a moment with me to reflect upon the countless lives lost in the name of this unjust war, and to honor the passing of one of our own.

Then, let's get to work.

Micah Daigle
National Field Director
Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Tallahassee, FL
United States

Informant Identified in Fatal Maple Tree/Marijuana Mix-up

Radley Balko reports that we might now know the identity of the confidential informant who mistook Japanese maple trees for marijuana, leading to the death of a police officer and murder charges against an innocent man.

The informant had a conflict with Ryan Frederick, so he broke into his house, misidentified his plants, and told police Frederick was growing marijuana. When police raided the home, Frederick mistook them for burglars and opened fire, killing a police officer. He's now sitting jail, awaiting trial for killing a cop.

This utterly tragic and absurd situation is the natural and predictable byproduct of our mindless war on drugs, which allows incompetent idiots with ulterior motives to provide probable cause for violent police raids.

Radley has some background on the case here.

Update: From comments, "If a police officer ran into traffic and got killed, would the driver who hit the officer be charged with murder?" I think that analogy comes pretty close to being fair. Frederick wasn't growing marijuana. He had no reason to think the people bursting into his home were anything other than common criminals, so he defended himself in good faith. The officer was killed because he went somewhere he didn't belong. It's a tragedy, to be sure, but it's certainly not Frederick's fault. Not in the slightest.

DrugSense FOCUS Alert: Tallahassee Drug Cops Accessories To Murder

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #366 - Monday, 19 May 2008 Another civilian alleged to be guilty of nothing more than possession of ecstasy and 25 grams of marijuana has been killed while under the watch of narcotics officers. This time, the dead woman is Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, a resident of Clearwater FL and a 2007 graduate of Florida State University in Tallahassee. Hoffman, 23, was found dead in rural Taylor County early Friday after two men suspected in her kidnapping and robbery led investigators to her body. Murder charges are pending, according to the Tallahassee Police Department. Hoffman was last seen Wednesday night near Forestmeadows Park while attempting to assist TPD vice investigators by buying drugs and a gun from two men. Though not yet convicted on the charges of marijuana possession and possessing ecstasy with intent to sell, the Tallahassee drug cops intimidated her into doing what should instead be the most risky part of their job. Rather than expose themselves - while using their state police training and their resources of being heavily armed and protected - they sent in Hoffman unarmed to deal with drug and weapon suppliers. Neither Ms. Hoffman's attorney of record nor the states attorneys office was notified of her involvement in this dangerous, high risk undercover operation by Tallahassee Police. Further, Ms Hoffman's participation in a court-ordered drug-treatment program should have precluded her from buying drugs for police, legal and treatment professionals have stated. Our country supports drug treatment. People undergoing treatment are required to avoid all contacts with anybody who uses or sells illegal drugs. Thus we should demand that laws preclude the use of any person undergoing treatment as an informant. ONLY due to the insanity of drug Prohibition policies would such an operation take place within our communities putting civilians at risk of injury and death as they do jobs that should instead be done by real police. But unfortunately, drug Prohibition guarantees that all drug dealing will be covert - behind closed doors - carried out by mystery players and participants. This is in contrast to the sensible system in place for literally 99% of drugs - notably alcohol, tobacco and Rx pharmaceuticals - where all dealers are out in the open. Police and regulators can easily investigate the how, when, where and who of all drug dealing that is not forced on to the street by 21st century Prohibition. Florida police, elected officials and voters all need to carefully consider how much longer we will endorse such a policy that leaves 100% control of production and dealing for a short list of in-demand drugs to street dealers, gangs and international cartels. Despite the sad death of Rachel Hoffman ten days ago and despite any number of future deaths that will occur among police and civilians alike, the "War on Drugs" continues to be an abject failure for reducing either the use of illicit drugs or the aggressive, violent street sales of those same drugs. Everyone needs to ask, "How many more police and civilians need to die before we come to our senses and end drug Prohibition?" Please consider sending a Letter to the Editor directed to the Tallahassee Democrat, which is the location of this sad story, and also the newspaper read daily by Florida State legislators and Governor Charlie Christ. Please also consider sending letters to other Florida newspapers which have carried opinions about this murder. Newspapers expect that the letters they receive be unique so please insure that each letter you send is at least slightly different. Letters of 200 words or less have the best chance of being printed. Thanks for your effort and support. It's not what others do it's what YOU do. ********************************************************************** The first story from the May 10 Tallahassee Democrat may be read here: MAP has archived almost 30 news and opinion clippings related to Ms. Hoffman's murder. New clippings are added each day: Some of the best items to respond to are the Editorial and Opinion clippings, with the most recent being: US FL: Editorial: Rachel Hoffman Case Demands Outside Review (Tallahassee Democrat) US FL: OPED: Innocence Lost on Both Sides of the Law (Tallahassee Democrat) US FL: Editorial: Why Was Informer Put At Risk? (St Petersburg Times) US FL: PUB LTE: Blame the War on Drugs (Tampa Tribune) ********************************************************************** Additional suggestions for writing LTEs are at our Media Activism Center:, or contact MAP's Media Activism Facilitator for tips on how to write LTEs that are printed. ********************************************************************** PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER Please post a copy of your letter or report your action to the sent letter list ( if you are subscribed, or by e-mailing a copy directly to if you are not subscribed. Your letter will then be forwarded to the list so others can learn from your efforts. Subscribing to the Sent LTE list ( will help you to review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or approaches as well as keeping others aware of your important writing efforts. To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see ********************************************************************** Prepared by: The MAP Media Activism Team,
Tallahassee, FL
United States

Law Enforcement: Death of Florida Student Forced to Become a Snitch Sparks Protests in Tallahassee
courtesy FSU NORML
The death last week of a Florida State University student who was killed while acting as an informant for the Tallahassee Police Department after being arrested on marijuana and ecstasy charges has sparked intense criticism of the police. On Wednesday, around 100 people gathered at the Old Capitol to call for police accountability in the murder of Rachel Hoffman, 23, who was allegedly shot and killed by two men she was trying to set up for the police.

Tallahassee police have been on the defensive since Hoffman's murder last week. Various law enforcement spokesmen have attempted to blame Hoffman for her death by arguing she didn't follow proper informant procedures.

But the protestors at the capitol weren't buying it. They criticized both Tallahassee police behavior in sending Hoffman out to buy cocaine and a gun, but they also leveled strong criticisms at the informant system in general.

"What we're trying to do is make sure TPD is accountable for their actions," Matthew Zimmerman, vice president of the Florida State University chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the Tallahassee Democrat.
courtesy FSU NORML
"I just think it was stupid that this all happened over drugs," said Mckenzie Smith, who said she had known Hoffman since childhood. "I don't think her life was worth busting two dudes."

"TPD had Rachel Hoffman going into a situation she had no place being in, just because she was associated with marijuana," said Rachel Lillibridge.

Zimmerman added, "I don't think two wrongs make a right. To make someone who's been convicted rat out someone else to get their sentence lessened is the right thing to do, I think everyone should be treated according to the law."

Two men have been arrested in Hoffman's death and are expected to be charged with murder shortly. But for many in Tallahassee, the shooters aren't the only guilty parties.

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