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Tallahassee to Pay in Death of Informant Rachel Hoffman

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #716)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

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 (
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.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anon (not verified)

I can't believe what I'm reading, convincing a young girl to be your dog instead of locking her up. Is this what you call justice? Shame!! Wake up America!! How can you look at this war and be anything but outraged!!! :'(

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 3:28pm Permalink
Ftlogaath (not verified)

if drugs were legal, there would be no war. there would be no drug lords because their power would be taken away. If the government started regulating drugs, making safe, approved versions, there would be less deaths due to botched chemistry jobs in home labs and there would be more revenue coming in because the government could tax the drugs just like cigarettes. So many crimes are committed every day because of drugs, and most of the drugs are no worse than alcohol. I know because i have tried most of them in the past. I didn't like any of them, but i see no reason to keep them illegal when more people are being murdered than are dying from actually taking the drugs. When will the government open their eyes?

I am sickened to think of the type of world we live in today.

Sun, 01/08/2012 - 11:10pm Permalink
governmentsleeze (not verified)

In reply to by Ftlogaath (not verified)

doesnt anybody take responsibility for their actions anymore?? letting stupid criminals talk their way outta things is a joke.  ALL these people are adults but you wanna treat them like children. snitching is a cowards way of denying accountability and responsibility.  you want the people who use drugs, and so on, to set up the dealers who sell them? that street dealer aint no different from a doctor pushing antidepressants. the government pushes more dope than pablo escobar x100

cool america. way to teach em to man up.  SNITCH rhymes with ***** yall

Mon, 01/09/2012 - 2:36am Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

This was not a one of,it's standard police practice to turn anyone they bust.If that person has no honor and no class and happens to know a trafficker he or she will wind up in similar circumstances.That this one was horribly mishandled is due to over reaching by a small town police officer.With all the incentives offered by the State and federal governments there are a lot of small town cops who would jump at the chance to do the same.I knew every one that ever turned me in.I would not go looking for them but if I ever ran into one I would not want to think about what would happen.Most traffickers are armed and very paranoid.Most informants are easy to spot.Even the heads of Mafia families are ratting because of the ludicrous sentences being handed out for drugs.Most informants are in very little trouble if they just man up.The police are very good at scaring the hell out of young punks with no heart.If you can't do the time don't do the crime.

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 12:28pm Permalink
greenspider (not verified)

In reply to by sicntired (not verified)

"When the state sends us to prison, essentially for exploring our own consciousness, this is a grotesque abuse of our human rights. It's a fundamental wrong.
If I, as an adult, am not sovereign over my own consciousness, then I am not sovereign over anything. I can't claim any kind of freedom at all.
What has happened over the last forty or fifty years, over the disguise of the War on Drugs, is that we have been persuaded to hand over the keys of our consciousness to the state.
The most precious, the most intimate, the most sapient part of ourselves, the state now has the keys. And furthermore they have persuaded us that it is in our interests.
This is a very dangerous situation." --Graham Hancock
Sun, 01/15/2012 - 9:54pm Permalink
Dan Simonds (not verified)

  This is so sad and disgusting. The lobbyists for the big drug companies are a lot to blame for marijuana being illegal. If marijuana were made legal, it would mean less prescription drugs being sold and less money being made for the big execs. It would mean LE would have to work on bigger crimes that take more time and effort. Companies are losing good workers because of the drug tests demanded by the insurance companies, who also make out pretty good from the drug companies. The drug companies and the government would make out great if they would legalize THC and sell it the same way they sell nicotine used in the electronic cigarettes. If THC were in an oil form and smoked using a vaporizer, there would be no toxic smoke or tars ingested. Medical studies have shown that THC has many medical benefits and smoked in a vaporizer causes no harm to the user or people around them. But trying to convince our politicians of this is a waste of time because they are bought and sold by the drug companies just like most doctors. The big drug companies have way too much power and say in this country and that needs to be stopped. We The People have no say in anything anymore. We have no say in the quality of food we eat or the water we drink. We don`t even have much say in who runs OUR country. Our only votes that count are the local ones. The big ones are are just for show because it is the big corporations with the big money that chose who is going to run this country. 

 I love my country, but I hate the ones running it and the ones so greedy that they only care about making more and more money instead of having pride and morals. 

Thu, 01/12/2012 - 2:03pm Permalink
Paul McKannon (not verified)

Two young people are dead. Why? Because they had been charged with violating MARIJUANA laws! They are dead because of a twisted illogical drug policy. Had there been no such insane prohibitionist law in place, these two women would still be alive.

Sun, 01/15/2012 - 10:52am Permalink
madre (not verified)

In reply to by Paul McKannon (not verified)

Mmm...these persons,would still be alive had they never gotten involved with drugs.legalize marijuana? that's a joke.   todays 'pot smokers' are largely young kids...whom are already lazy.yeah, lets encourage our young generation how   to siesta their lives away instead of encouraging and mentoring the importance of far as marijuana for the sole purpose of medical use, well now, that would also be a DOCTOR'S legal prescription and you'll find controversy with that as well right? doctors giving out marijuana prescription...imagine the long list's of patients.and you know that's just my opinion.No, i don't think marijuana is such a harmful 'plant' but in the wrong hands to add a little of this a little of that,can truely be disastrous...

Sat, 03/02/2013 - 12:11pm Permalink

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