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« TC Coleman on Legal Marketing | Main | Supreme Court Rules For Immigrants »
Tuesday
May192009

Rachel's Law Passes in Florida

Florida imposed new restrictions on how police use confidential informants, after the tragic death of a young female CI last year in a botched undercover operation.

“Rachel’s Law,” a bill that would tighten up rules on how the state's police recruit and use confidential informants was signed into law last week.

A year ago  their only daughter, Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, was killed on a dead-end Leon County road on her first assignment as a confidential informant for the Tallahassee Police Department. The 23-year-old was shot to death, police say, with a handgun she was sent to purchase, along with $13,000 worth of illegal drugs from two young men now accused of her murder.

Her body was found 36 hours later in the woods outside Perry in Taylor County, about 50 miles away. Police say Andrea Green, 26, of Perry, and Deneilo Bradshaw, 23, of Tallahassee, led them to her body. Both men are charged with first-degree murder.

"There has to be a lot of good that comes out of my daughter's death," Weiss said earlier this week. "This is just the beginning."

Both she and Irv Hoffman promise they'll be back in Tallahassee next year to try to strengthen Rachel's Law, designed to help protect confidential informants like their daughter. With Crist's signature, it is the first of its kind in the nation.

Irv Hoffman says he is honored by the law's passage — but it's bittersweet.

"It gives me some comfort, but I really don't feel better," said Hoffman, who continues to visit his daughter's grave in Pinellas County every day. "Emotionally, I feel a loss. It's a sadness that just doesn't go away. She was my whole life."

“Rachel’s Law is a good example of our democracy at work, where consensus is often necessary to achieve progress for a greater good,” Crist said in a release following this morning's bill signing.

Rachel's parents, who were stymied by law-enforcement officials opposed to strict regulation of what they say is a crucial tool in the fight against drug crimes, want to see additional protections for people like her, including prohibiting anyone in court-ordered drug diversion programs from working for police.

Hoffman was in such a program, which forbids participants from being around drugs, when she was sent out by police to buy cocaine, ecstasy and the gun. State Attorney Willie Meggs has said his office should have been notified that Hoffman was being so used. It wasn't.

"She never knew what hit her," Irv Hoffman said. "She never knew what she was walking into."

Hoffman graduated with a degree in psychology a year before her death and had plans to attend cooking school in Arizona. Those plans were delayed when she was arrested for drugs at her Tallahassee apartment less than a month before she was killed. Police say she volunteered to be an informant to work off her charges.

Cole Altner had been friends with Rachel from the time they met as kids at Hebrew school in Palm Harbor through their days at Florida State.

Altner thinks about what happened to her every day.

"It kind of shakes the foundation of your ideology toward life when one of the best people you know gets taken away in such a senseless, needless fashion," the 23-year-old said.

Hoffman had told Altner, as she did other friends, that she was working as a confidential informant for police, but he never imagined she could turn up dead.

Nineteen officers were involved in the drug-bust operation. However, police say, she ended up alone with Green and Bradshaw after she failed to obey orders to turn into Forestmeadows Park and instead followed the men to nearby Gardner Road.

"I didn't think they would have put her in that dangerous of a situation," Altner said. Hoffman's parents have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city. The family's attorney, Lance Block, said he expects the case will be tough on his clients, both because of the difficulty in reliving what happened and because Hoffman's involvement with drugs will likely be a focus of the city's case.

"But they are prepared to withstand whatever comes their way and try this case," Block said.

The FSU graduate had a prior marijuana conviction before the April 2008 raid at her house in which police found about five ounces of marijuana, a handful of ecstasy pills and drug paraphernalia.

A grand jury, which found police negligent in her death, was told by police that Hoffman told them she was selling between 10 and 15 pounds of pot a week.
Friends and family dispute that she was a big-time drug dealer. Her bank records don't support that level of dealing, Block said. Her friends say she only sold small amounts of pot to those close to her.

City Attorney Jim English did not return a call for comment. Tallahassee police spokesman David McCranie referred questions about Hoffman to English.

Last fall officials made changes to police department policies and procedures, fired the lead officer in the case, suspended his supervisors for two weeks without pay, issued reprimands and expressed sympathy for the family.

Investigator Ryan Pender has appealed his termination. His hearing to get his job back is scheduled for next week. Police Chief Dennis Jones has stood by his decision.

"I still don't feel the police have accepted any responsibility," Hoffman's friend Altner said. "They just chopped off the bottom of the totem pole with Pender."
Irv Hoffman is dreading the impending criminal trial.

"I am afraid it is going to open up a lot of stuff for me that I don't want to deal with," he said. "I'm just trying to get through one day at a time."

A trial date has not been set for the cases against Green and Bradshaw. Leon Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker said last fall she wanted it held before the end of this year.

Rachel's mom says the last year has gone by way too quickly. She still has boxes of Rachel's belongings and photographs to go through.

Instead of easing, the pain is getting worse as time speeds by, she said. She's put on weight. She can't get out of bed in the morning.

"It's becoming more of a reality that my daughter was murdered," Weiss said. "It's like, 'Whoa, I guess she's not on a vacation.' "

Gov. Charlie Crist  signed Rachel's Law, legislation named after slain confidential police informant Rachel Hoffman.

Hoffman's father, Irv Hoffman, wiped away tears as Crist signed the nation's first law designed to protect confidential police informants.

Hoffman died a year ago today during a botched drug bust involving Tallahassee police officers and DEA agents. She was 23 at the time.

Check back with Tallahassee.com for more on this story, including a video and photo gallery.

 

Friends and family dispute that she was a big-time drug dealer. Her bank records don't support that level of dealing, Block said. Her friends say she only sold small amounts of pot to those close to her.

City Attorney Jim English did not return a call for comment. Tallahassee police spokesman David McCranie referred questions about Hoffman to English.

Last fall officials made changes to police department policies and procedures, fired the lead officer in the case, suspended his supervisors for two weeks without pay, issued reprimands and expressed sympathy for the family.

Investigator Ryan Pender has appealed his termination. His hearing to get his job back is scheduled for next week. Police Chief Dennis Jones has stood by his decision.

"I still don't feel the police have accepted any responsibility," Hoffman's friend Altner said. "They just chopped off the bottom of the totem pole with Pender."

Irv Hoffman is dreading the impending criminal trial.

"I am afraid it is going to open up a lot of stuff for me that I don't want to deal with," he said. "I'm just trying to get through one day at a time."

A trial date has not been set for the cases against Green and Bradshaw. Leon Circuit Judge Kathleen Dekker said last fall she wanted it held before the end of this year.

Rachel's mom says the last year has gone by way too quickly. She still has boxes of Rachel's belongings and photographs to go through.

Instead of easing, the pain is getting worse as time speeds by, she said. She's put on weight. She can't get out of bed in the morning.

"It's becoming more of a reality that my daughter was murdered," Weiss said. "It's like, 'Whoa, I guess she's not on a vacation."

Source: Tallahassee.com

 

  Scott talks with Lance Block, the attorney for Rachel Hoffman's Family.

 

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    Response: Click here if interested
    Good job narrowing down all the information.
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    Response: Pinellas's Best DUI attorney
    I'm looking forward to reading your other posts.

Reader Comments (1)

How horribel to lose a loved one in such a manner. Thank go they have the intelligence to admit the system screwed up. Thank god they may be saving the lives of others who work with the cops. Please fry the two who tooks this beautiful young womans life. Took it for nothing.
August 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDon

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