The deaths of two young men have raised questions about the use of college students as confidential police informants in drug cases.
On June 27, 2014, the body of student Andrew Sadek was found in a river near campus nearly two months after he disappeared. His mum believes he was murdered as retaliation for his work as a confidential informant.
And recently, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s police stopped using student confidential informants after the death of a student who was involved with the program. The UMass student, referred to as Logan in a recent ABC “20/20” report, was busted in December 2012 after selling $US20 worth of LSD to an undercover campus police officer.
UMass student journalists Eric Bosco and Kayla Marchetti broke the story of Logan’s involvement as an informant, reporting in a front page Boston Globe article in September that campus police raided Logan’s apartment after catching the student selling drugs. During their search, Bosco told “20/20,” police found “$US700 in cash, an assortment of drugs, and a hypodermic needle.”
In an interview with “20/20” that aired on Jan. 23, Logan’s mother Francesca blames the school for her son’s death, saying the school could have done more to save her son’s life.
“We should have been called, under the policies and procedures of the university,” Francesca said. “I would have been up there in the middle of the night, bringing him home and finding him help … Just knowing there was a syringe, I would have gotten him help. I would have just automatically made an assumption it was heroin.”
According to UMass’ drug policy, prohibited items on campus include “Unauthorised possession of a hypodermic syringe or needle, or any instrument adapted for the administration of controlled substances by injection.”
Bosco told “20/20,” “[Logan] was offered a chance to help himself by giving information in regards to another drug dealer … The offer was they will drop all charges and they won’t charge him with distributing LSD and for the possession of drugs in his room if he wears a wire and goes, makes a controlled buy from a higher-level dealer on campus.”
Text messages from Logan viewed by Bosco and Marchetti show the student informant’s struggle with his deal with the police. One read “kinda hard to live with myself. … that was honestly the worst day of my life,” while another read, “I feel like I lost a brother and it [is] all my fault. Kinda wish I was just behind bars right now.”
Other text messages showed Logan’s struggle with what he recognised was a heroin addiction. “I’m gonna have to tell my parents really soon I’m a heroin addict and that’s why I can’t come back here … and presumably go to rehab,” he texted one friend.
UMass police told The Globe that they had no reason to believe their student informant was a heroin addict. Campus police chief John Horvath said that officers did not find evidence of heroin in his room, even though there was a needle, and that Logan declined the officers’ offer to enter a drug treatment program.
“If you find a needle on my kid, you have to assume it’s heroin,” Francesca told The Globe. “And if it’s heroin, you have to say something. You have to. Because that’s the drug that kills everybody.”
We reached out to UMass for comment on the “20/20” report and will update this post if we hear back.
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