By now, nothing the North Dakota Senate does should surprise me. But the actions of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding Rep. Rick C. Becker’s (R – District 7) House Bill 1221 – otherwise known as "Andrew’s Law" – are nothing short of inexcusable and dishonorable.
In case you’re not familiar with it, "Andrew’s Law" is named after 20 year old North Dakota State College of Science student Andrew Sadek. In April of 2013, Sadek was found to be selling marijuana on college campus. His largest sale being just over 3 grams to a confidential informant, with two sales totaling about $80 worth of marijuana.
As a result of the sales, Richland County Deputy Sheriff Jason Weber posed a choice to the 20 year old Sadek… become a confidential informant or face a Class A felony and up to 40 years in prison. Sadek chose the first option.
After acting in the capacity of a confidential informant, Sadek came up missing in April of 2014. Then in late June of 2014 the body of young Andrew Sadek was found in the Red River with a gunshot wound to the head and wearing a backpack full of rocks.
As a result of this tragic story, Rep. Rick C. Becker proposed HB 1221 as a means of bringing much needed regulation to how law enforcement can utilize confidential informants. Becker’s bill, as originally introduced, was eight pages long and provided a detailed structure on the use and protections of confidential informants.
But on Wednesday, eight days after emotional testimony from John and Tammy Sadek – the parents of Andrew – the Senate Judiciary Committee did the unthinkable and completely gutted the bill through amendment and gave it a 5-1 Do Pass recommendation.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Kelly Armstrong (R – District 36) carried the bill to the floor and acknowledged that the committee’s amendments "became the bill". Why? Because they literally struck out the eight pages proposed by Rep. Becker and replaced them with a two page amendment that leaves it up to the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board (made up primarily of law enforcement) to establish "standards for proper confidential informant handling procedures and setting limits on officer conduct in recruiting an individual to operate as a confidential informant".
The decision of the committee to gut the bill and replace it with their own weak amendment amounts to giving a green light for law enforcement to maintain the status quo. Senator Armstrong’s justification for the committee’s actions was to "get this into conference committee", because they thought the original bill was too restrictive. This was nothing short of an overblown and pathetic argument that shows poor leadership, weak-mindedness, and intellectual dishonesty.
The actions of this committee are disgraceful. Not only have they potentially put the lives of future confidential informants in jeopardy, but they have shown absolute disregard and disrespect for Andrew Sadek and his parents.
Think of it… a 20 year old young man is dead after he was pressured into the service of law enforcement for a non-violent crime. Yet here we have law enforcement, an Attorney General’s Office, and a majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee that apparently see nothing wrong with it. In fact, they want to perpetuate it.
"Andrew’s Law" was an opportunity to make something positive out of a horribly tragic situation. Unless the bill is restored to it’s original intent in conference committee; then the opportunity will have been completely wasted and lost.
Disgraceful, weak-minded, intellectually dishonest, and dishonorable… indeed these are sad and disappointing times at the State Capitol.