Criminal Justice

Rep. Steve Cohen Calls for Confidential Informant Reform, Citing Story First Covered by Reason TV

Congressman references the tragic case of Andrew Sadek, a college student bullied into becoming a confidential informant.

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From the floor of the House yesterday and in a phone call with Reason today, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) called for an end to the police practice of using non-violent, first-time offenders as confidential informants. He indicated that he intends to introduce legislative reforms. 

Responding to a two-part 60 Minutes investigation on confidential informants which aired this past Sunday, the congressman said, "It's time for the Department of Justice to take a close look at how the behavior of confidential informants not only threatens to ruin young lives, but in some cases, end their lives." 

Cohen specifically mentioned Andrew Sadek, a 20-year-old North Dakota college student who worked as a confidential informant for a drug task force and whose body was later pulled from a river, shot in the head and weighted down with rocks. Despite his dangerous work for the police and the manner in which his body was found, no law enforcement agency is investigating Sadek's death as a murder, and at least one officer suggested to his parents that Andrew had committed suicide.

Reason TV covered Sadek's story six months before CBS's flagship newsmagazine, which you can watch in its entirety at the bottom of this page. 

Congressman Cohen told me in a phone interview that at a minimum, Miranda warnings should be given to potential confidential informants. Presently, many people agree to become confidential informants before they've been arrested, which absolves police officers from the legal responsibility to Mirandize suspects.

Cohen added that there should be limitations on the duties required of informants, as well as training requirements which could ensure that potential informants were capable of such work before they were placed in dangerous situations they couldn't handle. He specifically referenced Rachel Hoffman, the Florida college student who was murdered when police compelled her to make a gun purchase.  

Long a critic of marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug, Cohen told me "we don't need to be arresting people wholesale for marijuana," and that he doesn't think marijuana offenders should be used as informants. He adds, "The public thinks [marijuana] is not worthy of prohibition by the government" and that drugs like meth, cocaine and heroin are much more appropriate targets of drug squads. 

"It's all about the money. Drug agencies want more money, more confiscations, more toys to justify their existence," Cohen explains. "They've spent so many years drinking the Kool-Aid, thinking they're saving the world by stopping people from smoking marijuana. They need to understand their priorities, there are more harmful drugs than marijuana."

He is hopeful that there will be bipartisan support of both marijuana policy reform and his prospective legislation regarding confidential informants. On drug policy reform issues, Cohen says he used to not have many Republican allies, but that a substantial amount have grown "more bold and more libertarian."

While stressing that he does not intend to rush the legislation, Cohen expects to put forth a bill sometime in early 2016, at the latest.

Watch below for Reason TV's reporting on Andrew Sadek and the larger issue of confidential informants:

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  1. Congressman Cohen told me in a phone interview that at a minimum, Miranda warnings should be given to potential confidential informants.

    …right before the cop then tells the confused first-timer offender that if he or she asks for an attorney “then I can’t help you.”

    1. AGAIN!!! Are you a real person? Or maybe a kwisatz hadercah,huh,TELL US!!

      1. “kwisatz hadercah”

        Try looking into that place where you dare not post! You’ll find me there, staring out at you!

        /FoE

  2. He adds, “The public thinks [marijuana] is not worthy of prohibition by the government” and that drugs like meth, cocaine and heroin are much more appropriate targets of drug squads.

    “But crackheads and junkies make perfect cannon fodder.”

    *Sigh*. Baby steps, I suppose.

  3. whose body was later pulled from a river, shot in the head and weighted down with rocks. Despite his dangerous work for the police and the manner in which his body was found, no law enforcement agency is investigating Sadek’s death as a murder, and at least one officer suggested to his parents that Andrew had committed suicide

    Jeebus, suicide? Do they really expect anyone to buy that?

    1. Well, yeah. He must’ve shot himself in the head and then tied those rocks on his feet and jumped into the river because he was serious.

      1. It can’t be that hard to weight yourself down with rocks, stand next to a river, and shoot yourself in the head in the correct direction.

        1. It’s also possible that he tied on the rocks, jumped in the river, and THEN shot himself.

          1. You’d think they’d be able to recover the weapon in that case.

            1. It is known these days that guns have agency of their own, and this one no doubt moved on to its next victim. That’s why we need CommonSenseGunRegulations?!

      2. Have you never heard of assisted suicide?

  4. He specifically referenced Rachel Hoffman, the Florida college student who was murdered when police compelled her to make a gun purchase.

    What kind of a fucking chickenshit coward do you have to be to send a scared young girl off to do your dangerous work?

    And if the bust had gone down as planned, all we would have heard about was how our brave boys in blue had saved us!

  5. Faced with the prospect of spending the bulk of his life in prison, and without consulting a lawyer or his parents, Andrew chose to become an informant, agreeing to make two controlled buys from each of three SEMCA-targeted drug dealers.

    So he’d completed five out of six buys and the the cops first thought is he’s on the lam to avoid the last one? Then he shows up dead and it’s a suicide? Nothing to see here.

    I really wish this I couldn’t believe they’d try this bullshit. Alas, I do.

    1. I truly cannot comprehend the utter, craven, amoral viciousness of these cops.

      They covered up an obvious murder, by the very drug gangs that are supposedly so evil that these CI tactics are justified, just to avoid embarrassment. They would rather a murderer walk the streets, than answer questions about how they investigate the drug trade.

  6. I watched the 60 minutes piece ,the cops view was,’there dopers ,mkay’ Yes ,they said dopers.Ending the WODs is what’s needed ,although,the banning the use of ‘civilian ‘ CI’s and the legal use of MJ through out the country will help.Oh,and Chicago is in a mess right now.Cops there must all be thuggs

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