North Dakota High Court Denies Appeal in Death of Student Turned Informant

A photo of North Dakota State College of Science student Andrew Sadek, who was found dead in a river in 2014 (Courthouse News via Justice for Andrew Facebook page)

BISMARCK, N.D. (CN) — The parents of a North Dakota State College of Science student who became a confidential police informant and then mysteriously died will not see their wrongful death claim tried in court, after the state’s highest court affirmed dismissal of the case.

In 2014, a Andrew Sadek agreed to report to police as a confidential informant, the 20-year-old’s body was discovered in the Red River near Breckenridge, Minnesota, wearing a backpack filled with rocks and a fatal, small-caliber gunshot wound to the head.

Sadek chose to become an informant under threat of two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge after officers found a marijuana grinder in a search of Sadek’s dorm room. The search came after Sadek sold 3.3 grams of marijuana to two individuals who were also police informants.  

John and Tammy Sadek, Andrew’s parents, claimed Andrew died as the direct result of his role as an informant and that the actions of police misled their son into becoming an informant. 

Jason Weber of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and an officer for the South East Multi County Agency Narcotics Task Force, who was also named as a defendant, allegedly told Andrew that he faced felony charges which could result in up to 40 years in prison and a “good possibility” existed he would do prison time if he did not accept the police informant offer, according to the ruling. 

In a 4-to-1 ruling, the North Dakota Supreme Court agreed with Richland County Judge Jay Schmitz’s dismissal.

“Due to the lack of available evidence to suggest how, when, or even where Andrew Sadek died, a conclusion that his death was proximately caused by defendants’ acts or omissions would be based on speculation,” Justice Daniel Crothers wrote for the majority in a 12-page opinion.

Sadek was reported missing on May 1, 2014. His body was found nearly two months later, and no determination was ever made whether the death was murder, suicide or accidental.

Justice Gerald VandeWalle dissented, calling the decision of the court “inappropriate.”                         

“Both the majority and the district court focus on ‘speculation’ surrounding Andrew Sadek’s death. However, a jury can be instructed not to speculate.” VandeWalle wrote in the dissent. “I believe the close proximity in time between the May 1 deadline set by Weber, coupled with Weber’s texts threatening Sadek with imminent felony charges, and the date Sadek went missing is sufficient to allow a factfinder to draw a reasonable inference that the defendants’ conduct was a proximate cause of his death.”

House Bill 1221 passed in the wake of his death, aptly dubbed “Andrew’s Law,” which aims to protect confidential police informants and disallows certain individuals from being used as informants. The bill passed in the North Dakota House unanimously and was later signed into law by Gov. Doug Burgum.

Andrew’s Law requires law enforcement to attend special training and provide protective measures for confidential informants. The law also requires law enforcement agencies to enter into a written agreement with confidential informants that includes the informant’s right to speak with a lawyer and bars the use of informants by campus police.

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