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Andrew Sadek's mother pushes for law restricting how police use college-aged informants

FARGO - The mother of a North Dakota State College of Science student she thinks was murdered because he worked as a confidential informant for police is pushing for a state law that would restrict the use of college students as informants.

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FARGO – The mother of a North Dakota State College of Science student she thinks was murdered because he worked as a confidential informant for police is pushing for a state law that would restrict the use of college students as informants.

Andrew Sadek was as an informant for the Southeast Multi-County Agency Narcotics Task Force, also known as SEMCA, when he went missing from the Wahpeton school in May 2014. His body was found in the Red River near Wahpeton in June 2014 with a gunshot to his head.

Tammy Sadek of Rogers believes her son was killed, even though autopsy results offered no conclusion on whether someone killed him or whether he shot himself.

Now she wants North Dakota to adopt a law similar to one on the books in Florida that would prevent police from using informant work as a bargaining chip to get a lighter sentence.

She posted the following comment on the "Justice for Andrew Sadek" Facebook page Nov. 13: "We need to get some new laws in place where they can't use these kids to do their (the police) jobs ... if we have to do it state by state or nationally. No more kids need to be put in these dangerous positions!"

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Sadek claims her son was bullied into becoming an informant because he was scared of a possible 40-year prison sentence police said he faced if he didn't cooperate.

The interim head of SEMCA told The Forum in a previous interview that he saw no problem with sending college students undercover to buy drugs.

"They're adults. They're making decisions on their own," said Jason Weber, interim supervisor of the task force. "These are individuals that know that if you sell drugs, that's a bad thing. It's against the law."

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who is considering a run for governor, told the High Plains Reader, a weekly newspaper based in Fargo, that he would be opposed to a law that bans police from using students as informants. Stenehjem could not be reached for comment Friday.

The push for the new law is in its early stages, but Sadek said she's prepared to fight for as long as it takes.

"I don't have any particular people that I'm working with," Sadek said. She said she's waiting to see what public consensus is for such a law before pressuring lawmakers in the Legislature to act when they meet again in January 2017.

"So far, it's been nothing but positive, and people are unaware of how (police) are allowed to use these students legally," Sadek said.

She said she got the idea to push for the law from Irv Hoffman, who commented on the "Justice for Andrew Sadek" Facebook page about the law in Florida. Hoffman is the father of Rachel Hoffman, a 23-year-old Florida State University graduate who was murdered while acting as a police informant during a botched drug sting that started in May 2008.

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Florida's law requires law enforcement to let their informants know that a reduced sentence "may not be provided in exchange for their work."

Sadek said she wants a national law modeled after "Rachel's Law," but understands it might take one state at a time.

"There's nothing that's ever going to bring Andrew back, but if we can save some other kids ... that's some satisfaction," she said.

Rep. Gail Mooney, a Democrat from Cummings, said she'd be willing to help Sadek if she needs it. Mooney commented on the "Justice for Andrew Sadek" Facebook page after watching Sadek do an interview on TV.

Mooney, who has an 18-year-old son about to enter college, said she worries about how police are using college-age adults as informants.

"I tend to believe that, yes, they are adults but yet, they are young adults, and they don't have the cumulative experiences to understand always what situations they're getting into," Mooney said.

She said before the next legislative session, she wants to research what other states do to protect students acting as informants for law enforcement.

"To me, there still is a sense of obligation of basic principles of safety," she said. "As a legislator, that's a question I can't help but ask, 'Are we making sure that we're doing that?' "

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