FARGO — The family of Andrew Sadek, a North Dakota college student turned confidential informant who died more than six years ago, will not get a trial in a wrongful death suit, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, Sept. 15.
In a 4-1 ruling announced late Tuesday afternoon, justices said Richland County Judge Jay Schmitz was right to dismiss John and Tammy Sadek’s lawsuit against Richland County and Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber.
“Due to the lack of available evidence to suggest how, when or even where Andrew Sadek died, a conclusion that his death was proximately caused by Defendants’ acts or omissions would be based on speculation,” North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Daniel Crothers wrote in the opinion.
The Sadeks claimed their 20-year-old son, a North Dakota State College of Science student whose body was found in late June 2014 in the Red River north of Breckenridge, Minn., was misled when police recruited him to become an informant for drug investigators. Weber allegedly told Andrew Sadek there was a "good possibility" he would serve prison time if he didn’t become a confidential informant, according to court documents.
Andrew Sadek was reported missing May 1, 2014, the deadline Weber gave the student for lining up a drug deal, court documents said. The student's body was found with a gunshot wound to the head on June 27, 2014.
Coroners did not determine Andrew Sadek’s manner of death, but his family claimed his death was directly related to his role as a confidential informant. Attorneys said it's possible Andrew Sadek took his own life, but the Sadeks' attorney argued the student likely was murdered.
Schmitz dismissed allegations of negligence and deceit against Richland County and Weber without a trial because “the alleged misrepresentation was a prediction of a future event and was not actionable as a matter of law.” The district judge also concluded there was no evidence that could establish the defendant’s conduct caused the death, meaning a jury would have to speculate on what happened to Andrew Sadek instead of using enough facts and evidence to make a decision.
Supreme Court Justice Gerald VandeWalle said in his dissenting opinion that summary judgment was inappropriate.
“I believe the close proximity in time between the May 1 deadline set by Weber, coupled with Weber’s texts threatening Sadek with imminent felony charges, and the date Sadek went missing is sufficient to allow a fact-finder to draw a reasonable inference that the defendants’ conduct was a proximate cause of his death,” VandeWalle said.
The Sadeks are disappointed in the outcome, their attorney Timothy O'Keefe said. He noted the good that has come out of the case, including a law named after their son that is meant to protect confidential informants.
"They're still very focused on finding the answers to the events surrounding Andrew's death," O'Keefe said. "While they are obviously disappointed, they are moving forward and doing the best they can."
When asked what next steps the family could take, if any, for the lawsuit, O'Keefe said they are still processing the ruling.
Corey Quinton, who represented Richland County and Weber, was unavailable for comment.