Drug War

Police Entrap Autistic Teenager in Drug Sting

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An autistic teenager in Temecula, California, was caught up in an undercover drug sting in August 2012. Jesse Snodgrass, new to high school and looking to make friends, unwittingly befriended an undercover police officer who relentlessly pressured him to buy pot. 

Rolling Stone features Jesse's story in its February 26, 2014 issue, but Reason TV had it first.

Check out Reason TV's documentary on Jesse, orginally posted on October 9, 2013. Full Reason text after the jump.

"We felt like our family was totally violated by the sheriff's department and the school district," said Doug and Catherine Snodgrass of Temecula, California. Last December, their 17-year-old autistic son was arrested after twice buying marijuana from an undercover Riverside county police officer at his high school. 

The undercover operation, titled "Operation Glass House," spanned a few months and included undercover officers in three area high schools: Chaparral, Temecula Valley, and Rancho Vista Continuation. The officers posed as regular high school students and would ask other students for drugs. Twenty-two students were arrested—the majority of them are reported to be special needs students like the Snodgrass' son. Their son, who wished to remain unnamed, is noticeably handicapped and has been diagnosed with autism as well as bipolar disorder, Tourettes, and several anxiety disorders.

"Everyday is a challenge for him," says his father.

Their son's list of disabilities have many in the community wondering why he was targeted in this undercover drug operation. The ordeal began on the first day of school last fall. The family had just moved to a new neighborhood and their son began his senior year at a new school, Chaparral High, in the Temecula Valley Unified School District. Their son rarely socialized, so his mom was thrilled when he announced that he had made a new friend in art class on the first day of school. 

"We were so excited. I told him he should ask his friend to come over for pizza and play video games," says Catherine Snodgrass, "but his new friend always had an excuse."

His new friend, who went under the name of Daniel Briggs, was known as "Deputy Dan" to many students because it was so apparent to them that he was an undercover officer. However, to their son, whose disabilities make it hard for him to gauge social cues, Dan was his only real friend. 

Dan reportedly sent 60 text messages to their son begging for drugs. According to his parents, the pressure to buy drugs was too much for the autistic teen who began physically harming himself. 

The Snodgrass' son finally agreed to buy Dan the pot. Dan gave him $20 and it took him three weeks to buy a half joint of pot off a homeless man downtown. This happened twice. When Dan asked a third time, their son refused and Dan cut off all communication. 

"Our son was pretty broken up about that and he was back to having zero friends," says Doug Snodgrass. 

On December 11, 2012, armed police officers walked into their son's classroom and arrested him in front of his peers. He was taken to the juvenile detention center, along with the 21 other arrestees, where he was kept for 48 hours. First hand reports claim that the juvenile center was caught off guard by the large number of arrests and that some youths had to sleep on the floor, using toilet paper as pillows. 

Their son was also expelled from high school.

The Snodgrass' hired a private attorney and took their case to court. In January, their son was found not guilty due to extenuating circumstances. The judge had him undergo informal probation and perform 20 hours of community service. 

In March, an administrative judge ordered their son to be reinstated into school stating that the district had left their son "anxious and alone" to defend for himself against an undercover police officer. 

The school district is currently appealing this judge's ruling, stating that their son was cognitive enough to know right from wrong. The school district has a "zero tolerance" policy when it comes to drugs. 

The Snodgrass' son was unable to graduate with his class last spring but is expected to graduate in December 2013. By the time the school district's appeal goes through, their son would have already graduated. The Snodgrass' say this is a waste of taxpayer money. The Temecula Valley Unified School District declined to comment.

The family is suing the school district for unspecified damages. The lawsuit will be filed on October 30, 2013. 

"This has been devastating to our family. It's a real drain on our resources emotionally, financially, physically," says Doug Snodgrass. "It's exhausting, but when your child gets harmed like this, you really don't think twice about it. It's not a matter of getting even. He is messed up by this and what happened is wrong. We feel an obligation to restore him in every way possible." 

Their son was the only arrestee to be reinstated in school, largely thanks to his parents' perseverance and their financial ability to take their fight to court. The other special needs students arrested remained expelled and at least one served a year in jail. 

Doug and Catherine's son is currently being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the ordeal. The Snodgrass' have set up a fundraising campaign for their legal expenses. 

The Riverside County Sheriff's department and Special Investigations Bureau did not return several requests for an interview. The Riverside District Attorney's office declined to comment.

About 7 minutes.

Produced by Amanda Winkler. Camera by Winkler and Sharif Matar. Narration by Todd Krainin. 

Go here for downloadable versions of the video and more information on the case.

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  1. Did detective Dan go home safely?

    This is what the drug warriors want for our society. Pieces of shit, all of them.

    1. And he hit his numbers, too.

      1. As often happens, when people have trouble in life, the police are available to make it worse.

  2. Such a brave officer who will entrap a boy with disabilities into buying drugs!

  3. Dan was his only real friend.

    Deppity Dan, American Hero. Somebody should make a movie about him.

    1. They should sue “Deputy Dan” personally as well as the police department and school district.

  4. What a fucking travesty.

    1. Agreed. I usually get mildly frustrated over stupid drug war stuff. But this one was different. All kinds of MURDERDEATHKILL thoughts running through my brain.

      If anyone didn’t watch the clip, do it when you’re mellow. Among the highlights are that the undercover cop was the first real friend this kid had had in years AND, after the bust, he locked himself in his room for weeks and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Although not stated, the implication was that whatever progress he had made over his condition had been wiped out and reversed.

  5. Their son’s list of disabilities have many in the community wondering why he was targeted in this undercover drug operation.

    really? Why would anyone find the cop’s targeting of this boy as anything other than SOP.

    1. In consultant-ese, it’s called Low-hanging Fruit.

  6. The Riverside County Sheriff’s department and Special Investigations Bureau did not return several requests for an interview. The Riverside District Attorney’s office declined to comment.

    So proud they are of the fine work they’re doing.

  7. In January, their son was found not guilty due to extenuating circumstances. The judge had him undergo informal probation and perform 20 hours of community service.

    What? If he was found not guilty, how can the judge make him do anything*?

    *Yea, yea, I know.

  8. Urge to kill rising.

    Seriously. Fuck everything about this. Especially the officers. I wish terrible things upon them. I wish terrible things upon their supervisors. I wish terrible things upon the school administrators. They all deserve to suffer horribly.

    Note to NSA/CIA/FBI: I’m speaking in generalities. My saying they deserve to suffer does not mean I will be the one making them suffer.

    1. Note to NSA/CIA/FBI: I’m speaking in generalities. My saying they deserve to suffer does not mean I will be the one making them suffer.

      CIA: Nice try, but it’s too late to call off the drones.

    2. Know who else thought people deserved to suffer but did not personally make them suffer?

  9. For the record, the school district did release a statement at one point, saying they did nothing wrong, they didn’t know anything that was going on, and it was the kids’ fault anyways for selling drugs.

    http://tvusd.ca.schoolloop.com…..616955.pdf

    1. At least they thought of the children. SMH.

  10. A thought just occurred to me that hadn’t when this story 1st ran: Could the whole thing have been an effort by the school to get rid of the relatively expensive special needs students?

    1. I don’t know — in the past they had an incentive to classify everyone as special needs because it qualified them for more funding.

      1. Maybe there’s some formula under which they keep the funding (because the child still counts as “theirs”) but expel the student’s actual, you know, body.

  11. Urge to smash something rising..

  12. So, what’s the name of the cop? Where’s the photo of him?

    Naming and shaming starts with, well, a name. And a picture.

    1. I see here in the union contract…yes, here it is…fuck you.

  13. I wish that Reason would take a few moments to make a few updates before re-posting an article from last year. It doesn’t make the publication look good when an article posted in 2014 references 2013 events in the future tense.

    1. You mean this isn’t a way to get Rolling Stone more page hits?

    2. What part of “Reason TV had it first” do you not understand?

      Or do you expect everyone who visits to pore through the archive before getting to the current stuff?

    3. Mary, your shite-for-reading-comprehension is showing again. The events took place in 2012.

  14. It sounds like the school district was using this undercover operation as a way to get rid of its special-needs students.

  15. “The Snodgrass’ son finally agreed to buy Dan the pot. Dan gave him $20 and it took him three weeks to buy a half joint of pot off a homeless man downtown.”

    Clearly the kid is connected to the druglords. If I don’t laugh, I would cry.

    Welcome to 21 Dumb Street

  16. What baffles me is, how can local politicians, even the local Senator, not see this as an opportunity? Even a Lawr ‘n Owada Drug Warrior-by-Proxy scum bucket has to see that this is a spectacular miscarriage, rife with photo-ops for a Crusading Representative calling for investigations, terminations, etc. If I represented that family I would be loudly calling for every singe public employee involved in that sting to be terminated and stripped of pension benefits. And if challenged on that my answer would be that what I WANTED was for those responsible to be hung, drawn, and quartered. Termination and loss of benefits is what I’d settle for.

  17. The school has a zero tolerance drug policy? Yet they let this Dan guy run around trying to find pot for months. They knew about it, yet they let him stay.

    So they don’t actually have zero tolerance, they just pick and choose when to tolerate. Doesn’t matter if you’re a cop, if you’re in a high school seeking drugs, then you should face the same penalties anyone else would. Otherwise, don’t tell me the school follows a zero tolerance policy because they obviously don’t.

  18. Stay classy, Temecula… *facepalm*

    1. I think this just about says it all:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDGKe1sN9I0

  19. I live in Temecula and the only place I’ve seen this story is Reason. Every time I mention it to someone in conversation they simply cannot believe what I am telling them.

    The deputy that was assigned to my high school (Temecula Valley High) was a also a gigantic asshole also. I once got dragged into the Assit. Principal’s office because I responded to someone asking me “Hey you got a hit list” (this was just a few months after Columbine) and I responded “yeah, and you’re one it”. The AP and the school cop started both screaming in my face about my “plans” and telling me I was going to jail. Than the Principal walks in (I had taken a semester of teacher’s aide for her) and she tells them they’re both idiots.

    Pretty sure the AP later got thrown in jail for sexual assault. Swell dude.

    1. I did something similar, I got suspended until I had a shrink declare me mentally stable.

  20. Fuck “Detective” Dan and the school for their cowardly statement.

    Every adult connected to this story is an asshole. Dan’s boss, Dan’s brothers on the force, the school principle – everyone. Assholes.

    What a sad travesty and miscarriage of justice.

    Fuck them.

  21. principal.

  22. What do the heroes over at that police website think about this?

    I guess they need more training on a mental disorder the average person is increasingly aware of.

    I can just shake my head at how retarded this story is.

  23. This is so absurd. Entrapment, plain and simple.

    1. Entrapment essentially became illegal to prove once SCOTUS said that a defendant can be accused of conspiracy even though his “co-conspirator” was an undercover cop who came up with the plan and convinced the defendant to engage in it.

      1. er… impossible to prove, not illegal.

    2. Luckily, they didn’t hold the kid down and beat him to death.

  24. We need more of this:

    http://theweek.com/article/ind…..shoot-cops

    Wouldn’t have helped this poor kid, but hey, a bunch of people leaving bags of oregano on their dashboards while having a coffee could have an impact.

  25. I don’t know how the parents didn’t rush to the school and break the necks of the administrators once they found out what happened. I’m about to have a child — gods willing, he will be healthy physically and mentally — and if a school I entrust the care of my child to for 8 hours a day allows ANYTHING like this to happen, I would be simply blinded by savage rage.

    1. And then child and family services will take your child, and smugly state to the cameras that they have saved a child from a dangerous household. Then they will high five each-other for a job well done.

  26. Thats amazing..Start working at home with Google! Just work for few hours and have more time with friends and family. I earn up to $500 per week. It’s a great work at home opportunity. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. http://www.CapitalPosts.com

  27. SO. NOT. HAPPY. Statist assholes. I am impressed with how diplomatic the parents were in the video. If this were me and they were filming at my house you would see fist hole punches all over my walls.

  28. I bet when Deputy Dan was a teenager, he bullied the special needs kids. And now as an adult, he just continues old habits while undercover in a high school.

  29. “The school district is currently appealing this judge’s ruling, stating that their son was cognitive enough to know right from wrong.” Unlike the school district, apparently.

  30. Thank god for these fearless boyz in blue, keeping us safe!

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