Saturday, December 27, 2008

Police Informant's Death Brings New Law, Lawsuit

The murder of a 23-year-old Florida woman in a botched drug buy-bust operation this May could lead to changes in how confidential informants are recruited and used by the state's law enforcement.

23-year old Rachel Hoffman, a recent graduate of Florida State University, was murdered during a botched sting operation earlier this year.
(Courtesy Leon County Sheriff's Offic)

An official investigation found the Tallahassee Police Department had violated its own rules by recruiting Rachel Hoffman, a Florida State University graduate who was facing a drug charge and likely jail time after arrests for marijuana possession, and sending her alone into a dangerous undercover sting without training.

Florida state legislators are putting the finishing touches on a bill they are calling "Rachel's Law," which would tighten up rules on how the state's police recruit and use confidential informants. The law, which was first proposed by Rachel's father, Irv Hoffman, would require police in Florida to be more judicious in their selection of confidential informants and ensure the potential recruit has access to a lawyer.

Its likely sponsors, State Sen. Mike Fasano and State Rep. Peter Nehr, expect the bill to be considered when the legislature begins its regular session next spring. Both are Republican.

Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones has signed on as a supporter of the effort. "We need to do a better job with this," Jones said in September.

Jones' support was perhaps surprising. In the days after Hoffman's murder, Jones made public statements that Hoffman was a criminal who bore a large part of the blame for the botched sting and, by extension, her own death.

"I'm calling her a criminal," Jones told ABC News' Brian Ross in July. Jones said then that he did not accept that his department was in any way responsible for Hoffman's death. "Do we feel responsible? We're responsible for the safety of this community," he said.

Click here to watch the 20/20 investigation of the botched sting.

Jones, who was reprimanded as a result of the investigation into Hoffman's murder, later apologized for those comments. "We were placing most of the blame on Rachel Hoffman. I regret that now," Jones said. "It made us look like we weren't taking responsibility for what happened."

Hoffman Parents Poised to Sue Tallahasssee

The two men Hoffman met as part of the May sting are in jail awaiting trial for her murder. One defendant, Andrea Green, has pled not guilty. The other, Deneilo Bradshaw, has not yet entered a plea, according to the court cleark's office.


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