BISMARCK – A North Dakota lawmaker and Republican candidate for governor is drafting legislation aimed at providing more protection for confidential informants and reducing marijuana penalties, inspired in part by last year’s death of college student Andrew Sadek that was featured in a “60 Minutes” segment Sunday.
Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, said the legislation he plans to introduce in 2017 would lower the offense levels for various marijuana crimes, get rid of mandatory sentencing and increase the threshold for drug dealing charges.
He said the confidential informant reforms would be modeled after Rachel’s Law in Florida, named after a 23-year-old woman who was shot and killed while acting as a police informant in 2008. It would include provisions from a failed attempt this year to strengthen that law.
Becker said he’s working on the legislation with the parents of Sadek, a 20-year-old North Dakota State College of Science student who was a drug informant before he went missing in May 2014. About two months later, his body was found in the Red River near Wahpeton with a gunshot to his head.
His parents, who live in Rogers, N.D., have said they believe their son was murdered, possibly because of his work as an informant. Autopsy results were inconclusive as to whether it was a homicide or suicide.
Tammy Sadek has accused a local drug task force of bullying her son into working as an informant after he was caught selling small amounts of marijuana twice on campus.
The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation overseen by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem – who like Becker is seeking the GOP nomination for governor – and its South Dakota counterpart reviewed the Southeast Multi-County Agency Narcotics Task Force handling of the case and found no wrongdoing.
But it did recommend a BCI agent oversee the task force – one of two in the state that had no BCI supervision at the time – and that agent is now in place, Stenehjem said.
Stenehjem said Wednesday that adults who agree to participate as a confidential informant need to do so “knowledgably, voluntarily and intelligently, knowing what the risk and the benefit is,” but he’s not sure that legislation is needed.
“I think we do have protocols in effect, and if we need to make any adjustments to those … we can do that without legislation,” he said.
As for relaxing marijuana laws, Stenehjem said, “I don’t think we can forget we have a problem with drugs in North Dakota, and we cannot lose focus on that.”