Drug Policy

Developments in the Rachel Hoffman Case

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Some new developments in the case of Rachel Hoffman, the Florida college student who was murdered last spring after being lured by Tallahassee police to work as a drug informant:

•  A Florida state senator has filed a claims bill that would allow Hoffman's family to be compensated should they prevail in a lawsuit.

•  Tallahassee police apparently told a grand jury the improbable story that Hoffman was slinging $35,000 per week in dope.  To review, when the police raided Hoffman's apartment earlier this year they found five ounces of marijuana and six ecstasy pills.

•  After a grand jury slammed the Tallahassee Police department in a scathing report last week, the five officers involved in the Hoffman case have been suspended—with pay, of course.

•  Finally,  a weird pissing match has broken out in all of this.  Apparently, there were three DEA agents involved in the Hoffman case, but the federal government refused to let those agents testify before the state grand jury.  In response, Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs has vowed not to prosecute any future cases involving DEA agents.  I guess it can't be a bad thing to have drug warriors fighting amongst themselves.

If all of this attention directed at the Hoffman case effects some policy changes with respect to the use of drug informants, or further erodes public support for the drug war in general, all the better.

But I can't help but note the difference between the massive coverage of and attention paid to the Hoffman case with, say, the relatively nonexistent coverage of the shooting death of Isaac Singletary in January 2007.

I'll play coy and leave it up to you, Hit & Run commenters, to discuss what might be behind the difference.

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  1. “In response, Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs has vowed not to prosecute any future cases involving DEA agents. I guess it can’t be a bad thing to have drug warriors fighting amongst themselves.”

    I agree, that can only be a good thing. It is sad that innocent people are killed in the process however.

  2. One would hardly expect an outcry when police shoot an armed man confronting them in the performance of their duty.I doubt the headlines screamed that they were trespassing on his property and did not identify themselves.

    Or do you mean old Black man vs young white woman?

    The details of both cases suggest to my value system that Mr Singletary’s life was worth much more than any number of Rachel Hoffmans.

    The DEA angle is interesting. Were they directing this whole thing and/or was Rachel Hoffman socially, if not professionally, well connected to some high level drug traffickers?

    Is their any indication this might not have been her first “police work”, or that she was a regular snitch?

  3. “but the federal government refused to let those agents testify before the state grand jury. ”

    Sounds like someone needs to take a case to the supreme court to determine whether federal agents are immune to state subpeonas when they’re not the defendant.

    -jcr

  4. It is sad that innocent people are killed in the process however.

    That’s always the worst part of prohibition.

    -jcr

  5. Radley: “But I can’t help but note the difference between the massive coverage of and attention paid to the Hoffman case with, say, the relatively nonexistent coverage of the shooting death of Isaac Singletary in January 2007.”

    SIV: “One would hardly expect an outcry when police shoot an armed man confronting them in the performance of their duty.I doubt the headlines screamed that they were trespassing on his property and did not identify themselves.”

    “Coverage” in Radley’s comment clearly refers to media coverage, like, you know, headlines ‘n stuff. Try reading and you won’t post so many non sequiturs.

  6. innominate one,

    Let me guess…. you went to a for profit trade school? Community college?

  7. It’s the J-E-W-S. Young Jewess vs. Old Black Man. Media coverage? Do the math.

  8. But I can’t help but note the difference between the massive coverage of and attention paid to the Hoffman case with, say, the relatively nonexistent coverage of the shooting death of Isaac Singletary in January 2007.

    I think this can 95% be attributed to the sex of the respective victims.

  9. Pluralism doesn’t work.

    We need a zone where people can take drugs, and, conversely, a place where no drugs exist.

    I nominate the coasts for the former, and the midwest for the latter.

    We’ll see which one natural selection favors!

    I’d also like to see affirmative action ended.

  10. Screw you Antiglobalist. The market has already concentrated the assholes on the coasts. The midwest would be near perfect if we had a legal drug trade.

  11. The DEA angle is interesting. Were they directing this whole thing and/or was Rachel Hoffman socially, if not professionally, well connected to some high level drug traffickers?

    My guess is that the DEA provided the money for Hoffman to buy the drugs and the gun. DEA involvement doesn’t necessarily imply that Hoffman was well-connected. Beyond presumably providing the cash, though, it’s impossible to say how much the DEA was involved in the botched sting unless someone can get them to talk, or the Tallahassee police start pointing out DEA missteps in order to redirect some of the blame away from themselves.

    Sidenote on Tally politics: There’s a Leon County sheriff’s election coming up soon, and the incumbent sheriff wants to merge the Tallahassee Police Department with the sheriff’s office in order to increase his own influence. So the TPD might be more willing to take responsibility for their mistakes in the Rachel Hoffman case if it helps them fend off a hostile takeover by the sheriff.

  12. I don’t think Radley’s giving Willie Meggs enough credit here, though. First he sets up the grand jury bludgeoning of the TPD, then he refuses to work with the DEA. Maybe it’s just a political gambit, but I’m happy to see a prosecutor publicly shaming incompetent police instead of sheltering them.

  13. A young hippie chick ruthlessly exploited by law enforcement vs an angry old black man waving a gun at police? No contest for the media.

    For me personally, I am more outraged at the shooting of the old man. Good lord, he lives in a bad neighborhood and he is over 80!

  14. So the TPD might be more willing to take responsibility for their mistakes in the Rachel Hoffman case if it helps them fend off a hostile takeover by the sheriff.

    Incidentally, for anyone who thinks that the TPD is more likely to take the opposite tact (locking the doors, turning off the lights, handing out medals, etc.), I should point out that the Tallahassee Democrat has been putting the Rachel Hoffman case on the front page every other day. The TPD can’t duck this story.

  15. Radley, your insistence on using this as an opportunity to speculate idly about race is…weird, beside-the-point, and troubling.

    The fact is that NONE of these people needed to die–it’s the result of the interaction between the Drug War and overly reckless police work–and the comparative angle is ugly and divisive.

    Would you be happier if Rachel Hoffman’s case were also ignored? After all, it would be more “equitable.”

  16. Is their any indication this might not have been her first “police work”, or that she was a regular snitch?

    SIV, you are an especially odious piece of shit. Hopefully, something will change your fundamental nature and turn into at least minimally decent human being.

    The whole point of the story is that Hoffman was a naive, nonviolent person put into a dangerous situation with genuinely bad dudes because of police pressure.

    While I appreciate your implication that the murdered young woman (victim) was actually a morally-compromised criminal flim-flam artist, you shouldn’t worry: I think the coveted designation among the elite group of “‘People’ who are actually Dumber than a Slime Mold” has been secured. I piss on you.

  17. Now this is the kind of post I stay up for.

  18. Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs has vowed not to prosecute any future cases involving DEA agents

    If we had that happen in California, we would have heaven on earth.

  19. The raid on the MD mayor’s home is now being investigated by the feds:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080808/ap_on_re_us/marijuana_packages;_ylt=As_bURTsELLW_elsgqwpEs5H2ocA

    Funny how they jump all over this one and no person was killed.

  20. From the link above:

    The FBI will monitor how effective, fair and professional the law enforcement agency’s conduct was during the incident, Wolf said

    Calvo’s defenders – including the Berwyn Heights police chief, who said his department should have been alerted ahead of time – said police had no right to enter the home without knocking.

    HaHa..Ho ho…heeeeee heeeee teeee heeee

    That last one gave me the giggles! Good way to start the weekend 🙂

  21. I never could figure out the penalty of being suspended with pay? Is there a downside? Anyway, check out this story about a mayor whose house was raided and his dogs shot:
    http://www.news24.com/News24/World/News/0,,2-10-1462_2372113,00.html

  22. But I can’t help but note the difference between the massive coverage of and attention paid to the Hoffman case with, say, the relatively nonexistent coverage of the shooting death of Isaac Singletary in January 2007.

    Pretty young white girl vs. a black dude?

  23. I never could figure out the penalty of being suspended with pay? Is there a downside?

    I know, who wouldn’t like to be suspended with pay and benefits? Sounds like a vacation to me.

  24. Pretty young white girl vs. a black dude?

    I clarify that neither of these people “deserved” it, bot are tragic situations.

  25. Play coy all you want. It’s all about race when it comes to the tax and spend drugwar.
    JMR

  26. To be technical, she was not “lured by Tallahassee police to work as a drug informant”. She was *blackmailed* into working as a drug informant.

  27. Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs has vowed not to prosecute any future cases involving DEA agents.

    That’s a good thing, right?

  28. She “volunteered” to work as a drug informant.
    Rachel Hoffman could have refused and gone to jail for the charge she was arrested for.

  29. I’ll play coy and leave it up to you, Hit & Run commenters, to discuss what might be behind the difference.

    Not me. I don’t go hunting at the zoo either.

  30. She “volunteered” to work as a drug informant.

    Your scare quotes reveal your understanding of how that word fails to apply.

    Don’t worry. When it’s your ass in the sling, you can puff up your chest, take the fall and be an intarweb hero.

  31. Rachel Hoffman could have refused and gone to jail for the charge she was arrested for.

    SIV, what the fuck is your problem? Have you ever had the police try and railroad you? I have. It’s not pretty and there’s a lot of pressure. I didn’t cave but I can see how some people would.

    Stop being a fuckhead and get real.

  32. Real?

    Do you think MS Hoffman is not in any way responsible for her actions because she was scared and didn’t want to go to jail?

    Do you hold that all criminals who cooperate with authorities to snitch on other criminals and are killed as a result are just innocent victims ?

    This reeks of double standard.

  33. Do you hold that all criminals who cooperate with authorities to snitch on other criminals and are killed as a result are just innocent victims ?

    So you believe that threatening a person guilty of a victimless “crime” with jail time in order to get her to do what you want is equivalent to threatening a mob killer with the death penalty in order to get him to roll over on his paisons?

    She wouldn’t have been in this situation if drugs were legal. Additionally, she harmed no one.

    If you can’t see the difference, you are a sick fuck.

  34. Tallahassee police apparently told a grand jury the improbable story that Hoffman was slinging $35,000 per week in dope.

    Umm, perjury charges, anyone?

    Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs has vowed not to prosecute any future cases involving DEA agents.

    The first time I read that, I thought he was promising immunity to DEA agents no matter what they did.

    Do you hold that all criminals who cooperate with authorities to snitch on other criminals and are killed as a result are just innocent victims ?

    SIV, do you absolve the police of any responsibility when they act with reckless disregard and someone dies?

  35. epsiarch, i’m with you on this one to a degree. however, she was going to harm others under the same insane regime of laws she was going to be harmed by. some of those people were obviously men of violent will, and the pd – out of gross incompetence or reckless disregard – sent her to die. they carry a great deal of the burden for what happened. so do the many legislatures who allow this nonsense to continue corrupting law enforcement and enriching the black market.

    but it’s not like she was five years old. when a confidential informant gets the wrong house raided, we all (rightly) say “the cops fucked up by listening to this person, and that person is a fuck for fingering innocent people to save their own ass.” they too are picking between a rock and a hard place, but they rightfully get very little sympathy in these corners.

    some posters in the past have indeed been complete and total dicks about this case, but i don’t think the underlying point about adding more people to the bonfire to save yourself – even if you’re young, pretty and female – is completely invalid. we *all* agree that she should not have been in that position in the first place, and that the pd essentially sent her on a suicide mission.

    the only good news about this case is that because she was young, white and female, this is going to have at least some legs. perhaps not as much coverage as the mayor and his dead dogs are getting, but during a drought you accept all the rain you get.

  36. I hear you, Acid Damage, but to expect a young, harmless girl who is bearing the full pressure of the police to say “I won’t screw someone else out of principle” is pretty insane. Facing jail time for doing something where you harmed no one and had zero ill intent is very fucked up–I know, because I’ve been there.

    The scale of this alone makes it ridiculous. She sold a plant and got sent into a situation where she was murdered. That’s crazy. If the cops sent a mob killer into a situation where he got made and then killed, that’s bad enough. But this is just utterly outrageous.

  37. SIV, do you absolve the police of any responsibility when they act with reckless disregard and someone dies?

    No

    The police in this case are responsible for putting Rachel Hoffman in the situation in which she was killed. She is responsible as well and made some very bad choices.

    Balko often highlights cases in which innocents are harmed by police. This is not one of those cases.

  38. Radley, your insistence on using this as an opportunity to speculate idly about race is…weird, beside-the-point, and troubling.

    It’s not beside the point at all.

    If one of Radley’s working assumptions is that the reason the Drug War continues in its present reckless and murderous form is because the victims of law enforcement atrocities are usually black, he should take each and every opportunity that comes along to remind people of this fact.

    Do you hold that all criminals who cooperate with authorities to snitch on other criminals and are killed as a result are just innocent victims ?

    This reeks of double standard.

    Nope, it’s a single standard.

    My single standard is, “Was the underlying law that was used to contrive this situation just or unjust?”

    If they caught her fencing stolen property and blackmailed her into informing and she caught a bullet, she’s just experiencing a consequence of her immoral act.

    If they caught her smiling in the springtime, decided to declare that a crime, used the legal penalties for that faux-crime to blackmail her into informing, and she caught a bullet, then the cops are monstrous cocksucking bastards.

    See? Single standard.

    perhaps not as much coverage as the mayor and his dead dogs

    Yesterday on CNN they devoted a few minutes to discussing the appropriateness of no-knock warrants. I could not believe my cotton-picking eyes.

  39. I hear you, Acid Damage, but to expect a young, harmless girl who is bearing the full pressure of the police to say “I won’t screw someone else out of principle” is pretty insane.

    i dare say expecting anyone to do so is probably outrageous, or at least somewhat unreasonable. some folks are probably more well-informed about informing than others.

    i guess what i don’t get is that she was 23 years old, not 16. but we keep using the language – myself included – to emphasize how young she was. some of that is good old-fashioned paternalism at work, which is probably to be expected.

    (on both my part and everyone else’s. i didn’t do enough el cid to completely negate my early imprinting on gender roles.)

  40. Stupid white cunt got what was coming to her.

  41. She is responsible as well and made some very bad choices.

    yeah, yeah, she chose to smoke pot and chose to buckle under the police pressure, but somehow I can’t quite get myself to equate that to any meaningful responsibility.

  42. rc – do you feel the same way about other kinds of confidential police informants?

  43. RC Dean,

    She chose to set someone else up to possibly reduce her legal liability for a crime she committed.

    She chose to set up dangerous, violent people who she was associated with.

    She chose to not follow the instructions of the police she was working for.

    There would be no outcry if she was male, aside from her race and socio-economic status.

    (Important note to any would-be snitches out there. You do deals with the DA, not the police. “Helping the police” can actually lead to facing more numerous and severe charges and a harsher sentence as you are providing evidence of your participation in trafficking and conspiracy.)

  44. Tallahassee police apparently told a grand jury the improbable story that Hoffman was slinging $35,000 per week in dope. To review, when the police raided Hoffman’s apartment earlier this year they found five ounces of marijuana and six ecstasy pills.

    Where’s the cash you perjuring assholes? It’s not enough that you’re responsible for a young woman’s murder, you have to slander the dead as well?

  45. SIV: do you hold soldiers individually responsible as immoral murderers who are contributing to an unjust war, or do you feel badly when they are killed in action and blame the war policy instead of the individuals?

  46. Jesus Christ, SIV. Why don’t you just go piss on her fucking grave and be done with it.

    Dickhead.

  47. From some of these comments you would think I recruited her as a confidential informant.

    I mourn Rachel Hoffman about as much as I do
    Detective Jarrod Shivers, that is to say not at all.

  48. The bottom line is that this was a non-violent “drug offender” that got tied into the black market of drugs, and got offed because of sloppy police not looking out for their witness. If non-violent drug use was legal, just like alcohol use, this never would have happened. This is an unnecessary casualty caused directly by the policies and politics of the drug war.

    Whether or not Rachel Hoffman snitched or not is not important. What is important is that law enforcement should never have had any charge for a non-violent drug offender. Thus, she never should have been in the situation where she had to snitch to retain a felony-free future.

  49. the US government & laws are as crooked as the day is long, there is no war on drugs, a war on personal freedom is all that it is. These killings serve to keep us scared & submissive, nothing more nothing less & no DEA FDA or any other agent from any corrupt organisations will ever be held to trial for his/her actions. NWO is in full effect people WAKE UP

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