Drug Policy

Collateral Damage

Drug informant outrage

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Earlier this year, police in Tallahassee, Florida, raided the home of college student Rachel Hoffman. Her friends say Hoffman was a bit of a hippie-ish free spirit, and they concede that she shared and sold small amounts of marijuana and ecstasy within her social circle. Hoffman was at the time undergoing compulsory drug treatment after another run-in with the police, in which they found 20+ grams of marijuana in her car during a traffic stop. The raid turned up another five ounces of marijuana, six ecstasy pills, and assorted pot-related paraphernalia.

The cops threatened Hoffman with prison time, then agreed to let her off easy if she'd become a police informant and set up a deal with her supplier. They never informed Hoffman's attorney or the state prosecutor of the arrangement. They wired Hoffman and asked her to arrange to purchase 1,500 ecstasy pills, cocaine, and a gun, a deal that would have run well over $10,000. Hoffman's friends and family report that all three purchases would also be drastically out of character for her—which means the dealers she was buying from were almost surely on to her.

Tallahassee police found Hoffman's body not long after. The first thing they did was call a press conference in which they blamed Hoffman for her own death, stating that the arrangement she made with the police was consistent with department protocol, and that she agreed to meet with the dealers in a different location than the one previously agreed upon.

After public outrage, the city is now walking that back a bit, and has asked Florida's attorney general to look into the Tallahassee Police Department's procedures for dealing with drug informants. In the meantime, add Hoffman's name to ever-growing list of non-violent, non-threatening Americans killed by the drug war.

NEXT: Swept Away

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  1. Come on Radley!

    If people are allowed to possess marijuana, the next thing you know, the darkies will smoke it and start thinking that they are as good as white men.

  2. I was looking forward to some new information or a link to an update. This doesn’t read any differently than the first time it was mentioned here.

  3. Maybe that’s because it’s still an outrage and there’s nothing to add?
    JMR

  4. They never informed Hoffman’s attorney or the state prosecutor of the arrangement.

    If that was reported before, I missed it. I’m also confused. I thought once someone was represented, the cops had to include the lawyer in all conversations. I’m sure I’ve heard that from more than one TV show.

  5. But there is new information about the grand jury implicating the police culpability in her death.
    That and the police are trying to claim she moved $35k in weed per week…

    http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080805/NEWS01/808050314/1010

  6. Ah, the police. Is there anything reprehensible they won’t do?

  7. Damn, she was pretty hittable, too.

  8. @Daniel

    Yeah, I just picked up the paper to read that article. The Tallahassee Democrat is doing a hell of a job on this case, so all Radley has to do is sit back and write summaries. They’re already dismissing outright this line about Hoffman moving $35K a week. Nice to know at least one paper won’t print claims the police make as fact.

    I’ll be joining the SSDP at Florida State this fall so I can get involved in this case personally.

  9. Jeebus, if we can’t even get a conviction on a cop who fires blindly into a room in response to his own buddies’ gunfire, and kills a woman holding a baby, I seriously doubt anything will happen to the cops who set this woman up.

    Except some promotions, and probably a raise.

  10. @R C Dean
    Don’t forget the medal. It’s always very traumatic for the officer when they send someone to their death.

  11. You all are assuming that Rachel’s murder was precipitated by her informing. Has that been definitely established?

    If that turns out to be true, how shall blame be apportioned? Most, if not all, blame goes to her murderers, certainly. If not, does some blame go to her, for assenting to be an informant, or is she completely blameless in the light of LE coercion?

  12. Never ever talk to the police and don’t trust them about anything. Shut up and call your lawyer.

  13. Blame hierarchy:

    1: Drug laws
    2: Hoffman’s murderers
    3: The Tallahassee Police Department

    The first thing precipitated the actions of the other two.

  14. I often advise my clients that the appropriate response to dealing with police by anyone even remotely under suspicion is to forcefully recite four words: “I want my lawyer.” If five words are necessary, the mantra should be: “I want my lawyer now.”

  15. Gutta percha, you’re a troll. Your questions flirt with reductio ad absurdum, and ignore the most obvious and well-reported of facts.

  16. “””They never informed Hoffman’s attorney or the state prosecutor of the arrangement.”””

    If that’s true she never had an arrangement. That can only come from the prosecutor’s office. Sounds like they planned on getting what they could out of her then throwing her to the DA.

    Cops are the biggest liars and they do it to intimidate. They will tell you anything to scare you into submission. I once had one tell me that passing a joint was considered selling.

  17. Cops are horrible people.
    Anyone who wants to ‘police’ others is a piece of shit.

    Anyone who doesn’t agree, is also a piece of shit.

    Eat it.

    I understand songs like Cop Killer more and more everyday.

    I do not own a gun now, however, I will be soon purchasing a gun just to shoot any cocksucker that want to ‘bust’ through my door.

    I think cops are horrible people. Join the fucking military if you want to help/fuck-with people. Fucking pigs.

    What intense satisfaction it would be to take-out every fucking pig on a bust.

    I am not a violent person by the way. I will be though…

    blogimi Dei
    Veteran
    Tlingit
    mother-fucker

  18. The ‘founding’ Father’s would feel the same…

  19. how shall blame be apportioned? Most, if not all, blame goes to her murderers, certainly. If not, does some blame go to her, for assenting to be an informant, or is she completely blameless in the light of LE coercion?

    gutta percha,

    There’s probably not much we can do about the unscrupulousness of some black marketeers and the naivete of some pot smokers. Hopefully there’s more we can do about public policy, for which we are theoretically responsible, that makes this combination of traits (along with the unscrupulousness of our public servants, for whom we are also theoretically responsible) a deadly combination.

  20. It’s a given that higher level dealers will kill an informant if they are found out.

    If you throw someone into an ocean area filled with sharks, and the sharks kill the person, yeah, right, it’s the sharks’ fault.

    The police evidently felt that her life was worth putting at risk just to bust some recreational drug dealers. Too bad.

  21. Isn’t it true that none of these terrible things would have happened to this young women if she had not been breaking the drug laws and dealing in controlled subtances? Or am I being just too old fashioned to think that your unwise associations and illegal actions will always lead to bad results. If she had not been willing to be a criminal in the first place then LE would never have had an opportunity to put her in harms way.

  22. Unknown to Drug Warriors and et al. there are happy, well adjusted children in places like Amsterdam and Jamaica.

    How can that be possible???

  23. Was alcohol prohibition this bad?

  24. As a rule I am unsympathetic to informers and usually believe they deserve what they get but in this case the police took a very low level user and set her up to be murdered. Everyone involved in this case needs to be charged with murder or at least accessory to murder. These cops knew exactly what they were doing. Typical cowardly drug warriors! If pot were legal and the government would mind their own business these kinds of things wouldn’t happen.

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