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Judge dismisses suit over death of North Dakota college student turned police informant

Tammy and John Sadek, photographed in their home near Rogers, N.D., on June 23, 2015, with a photo of their son, Andrew. Forum file photo

WAHPETON, N.D. — Five years later, there still are no clear answers in the disappearance and death of Andrew Sadek, a 20-year-old college student turned police informant whose body was recovered in the Red River in June 2014.

However, the legal questions raised by a wrongful death lawsuit that Sadek’s parents filed against Richland County and Jason Weber, a sheriff’s deputy who recruited Sadek as an informant, were answered this week when a judge dismissed the case.

“The stark reality of this case is that there is not, and perhaps can never be, any evidence of how, when, where, or why Andrew Sadek died,” Southeast District Judge Jay Schmitz said in court documents filed Monday, May 20.

Sadek’s parents, John and Tammy, of Rogers, sued in 2016, seeking damages stemming from their son’s death. The suit accused Richland County and Weber of negligence, fraud and deceit in their recruitment of Sadek, and alleged that he was misled into becoming an informant.

“It’s disappointing for the family to have to go through this aspect of it,” Timothy O’Keefe, attorney for Sadek’s parents, said of the dismissal. “They will definitely be appealing.”

An appeal would be heard by the North Dakota Supreme Court. If the appeal is successful, the case will come back to Richland County District Court where it could go to trial, said Corey Quinton, attorney for Richland County and Weber.

In April 2013, Sadek sold a total of 3.3 grams of marijuana to two confidential informants working for the Southeast Multi-County Agency Narcotics Task Force (SEMCA), according to court documents.

Later the same year in November, SEMCA searched Sadek’s dorm room and found drug paraphernalia, court documents stated. Weber met with Sadek and told him the marijuana sales were felonies that carried a maximum combined sentence of 40 years in prison.

Weber told Sadek that he likely would not receive that sentence but would get some prison time for the offenses, adding that they could possibly be reduced to misdemeanors if Sadek became an informant.

In his findings, Judge Schmitz noted that in keeping with its general practices, SEMCA provided “only limited guidance to Andrew on undercover methods” and “did not inform or train Andrew on the hazards of undercover narcotics work.”

As an informant, Sadek completed three undercover buys of marijuana from two different people. Authorities expected him to conduct more buys, but he stopped contacting them.

Surveillance cameras captured Sadek walking out of his dorm at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton early on May 1, 2014. “There is no evidence of where Andrew went, what he did, or who (if anyone) he might have met after leaving,” Schmitz wrote.

Sadek’s body was found in the Red River two months later wearing a backpack filled with rocks and with a gunshot wound to his head. The gunshot was determined to be his cause of death, but his autopsy was inconclusive regarding the manner and time of death.

“One can only speculate, almost endlessly: Was Andrew’s death a suicide or homicide? If it was homicide, who did it? What was the killer’s, or killers’, motivation? Was Andrew killed during a drug deal? If so, was it related to his role as a confidential informant?” the judge wrote. “The heart cries out for an answer to what happened to Andrew, but the mind searches the record in vain for that answer.”

Sadek’s parents have maintained he was murdered because of his work as an informant, something they say authorities coerced him into doing.

An investigation revealed that Sadek apparently had brought a .22-caliber pistol from his parents’ home to Wahpeton in early 2014. Tammy Sadek has previously said her son was shot with a .22-caliber bullet.

Judge Schmitz wrote that he dismissed the suit’s fraud claim because the solution would be to revoke the informant contract made between SEMCA and Sadek, and “it is impossible to rescind the parties’ contract and restore them to their original positions.”

The deceit claims were dismissed because Weber’s statements regarding Sadek’s possibility of felony charges and prison time constitute “a prediction of a future event” and is not deceit “as a matter of law.”

Schmitz dismissed the negligence claims, concluding there’s been no evidence produced that Sadek’s death was caused directly by Weber and Richland County’s alleged negligence in assessing the dangers Sadek faced as an informant.

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