Editor's note: This story was originally published Aug. 2, 2015.
WAHPETON, N.D. – With the threat of felony charges hanging over him, Andrew Sadek sat down with a narcotics detective in a cramped interview room on Nov. 22, 2013.
It was Sadek's 20th birthday, and he was there voluntarily, in the office of the Wahpeton-based drug task force, to discuss his options.
The 25-minute meeting ended with Sadek agreeing to work as a confidential informant - a decision that may have drastically changed the course of his life.
A video of the encounter between Sadek and the detective, Jason Weber, was released to The Forum last week as a result of an open-records request. The video shows Weber explaining to Sadek the inner-workings of the informant world - a world that can be dangerous, especially for the young and inexperienced.
In June 2014, Sadek's body was found in the Red River near Wahpeton, with a gunshot to his head. Autopsy results offered no conclusion on whether someone killed him or whether he shot himself. His parents have said they believe he was murdered, possibly because of his work as an informant. Sadek's mother, Tammy, has said the task force pressured her son to go undercover.
The video of Andrew Sadek's meeting with Weber does not reveal any strong-arm tactics, but there's clearly some salesmanship on the detective's part as he secures Sadek's cooperation. Parts of the video were redacted to conceal certain information, such as names and phone numbers.
Weber starts his talk with Sadek, a student at the North Dakota State College of Science, by reminding him that he'd expressed interest in working for the task force after he was caught twice selling pot, a total of 3.3 grams, to an informant on campus.
Weber goes on to tell Sadek that unless he wears a wire and buys marijuana as an informant, he could face two felony charges with a combined maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $40,000 fine.
"Obviously, you're probably not going to get 40 years. But is it a good possibility that you're going to get some prison time if you don't help yourself out? Yeah, there is," Weber told Sadek. "That's probably not a way to start off your young adult life and career." PDF: See Sadek's confidential informant contract
Whether Sadek would have actually received prison time would have depended on which judge handled his case, Richland County State's Attorney Ronald McBeth said in a phone interview.
"You get the wrong judge, you're going to prison," McBeth said, but added that most judges only make first-time drug dealers serve 30 to 60 days in county jail.
Given Sadek's age, his lack of a criminal record and the fact that he was dealing marijuana rather than a more dangerous drug like heroin, McBeth said, prosecutors would have likely recommended a deferred imposition of sentence, meaning that if Sadek had stayed out of trouble while on supervised probation, any felony convictions would have been wiped from his record.
In taking the informant route, Sadek also had the opportunity to erase the prospect of a felony record.
But to do so, the task force required him to purchase marijuana from three or four people, buying twice from each person, according to the video. Even after that much cooperation, Sadek would still likely face a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession, Weber told him. "But at least you're not pleading guilty to felonies. OK? Is that fair enough?" Weber asked. "Very fair," Sadek replied.
Weber then began probing Sadek for information, asking if he knew people at the college or around town who could sell him marijuana.
At one point, the detective specifically asked if there were any football players on campus from which he could buy drugs. Sadek told Weber he knew of two dealers, but neither played football.
One dealer lived in Wahpeton, and the other was in Fargo, he said. Showing eagerness, Weber asked Sadek if he thought he could arrange to buy pot from the Wahpeton dealer that same day. "I could try," Sadek responded.
Weber told Sadek that once he'd made enough drug buys to remove the possibility of felony charges, he could work as a paid informant and earn "quick, easy cash."
"You go buy some marijuana, it takes you five minutes, you'll get paid 100 bucks to do a deal. If you go buy meth, pills, whatever, you get paid 200 bucks," Weber said.
During the meeting, Weber did not specifically make Sadek aware of the potential dangers involved with being an informant.
However, Weber did have Sadek, like other task force informants, sign a contract acknowledging he understood the rules of informant work. One of those rules is that informants may have to testify in court and, in the process, blow their cover.
To ease any concerns Sadek had about this possibility, Weber told him, "I've been doing this a long time. My partners have been doing this a long time. We have never, ever had anybody come back to testify, yet." Looking for more reassurance, Sadek asked, "They're not going to know that I ratted them out?"
In response, Weber explained that after undercover deals, the task force waits a few months and lets the dealer sell to other people before making an arrest. By that time, the dealer won't know for sure which buyer was wearing a wire, Weber said. Because Sadek knew of just two drug dealers, Weber told him to start looking for more "contacts," or dealers.
"Start working on your contacts. Let's get some of these deals done. That way the faster you get done, the faster ..." "This all gets cleared up," Sadek said, finishing Weber's sentence. "And you don't have this weighing on you," Weber added.
'Calm in nature'
As an informant, Sadek bought marijuana on the NDSCS campus three times between November 2013 and January 2014, according to the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
After that, Sadek stopped contacting the task force, and when Weber tried to reach him, there was no reply. He had three more drug buys left to avoid the two felony charges, the BCI said.
Early on May 1, 2014, Sadek was seen leaving his dormitory before he disappeared. A search for him ended on June 27, 2014, when his body was found in the river. Investigators told his mother he was wearing a backpack full of rocks and that he didn't have his wallet.
The gun used in his death has not been found, according to authorities. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the North Dakota BCI and NDSCS police are investigating the case. Last summer, Tammy Sadek called for a state investigation into the task force's practices.
And North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem ordered a review, which found nothing wrong with the task force's work involving Sadek, including the videotaped meeting between him and Weber.
"The review board did not find any cause for concern with the recorded interview," the board's report stated. "The recorded interview was calm in nature and Sadek understood the situation."