Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Witness vs Informant

Chancellor Subbaswamy and Stan Rosenberg Saturday UMass Homecoming Parade

Well I guess there goes the Pulitzer Prize for the venerable Boston Globe.

According to Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan, drug OD victim Eric L. Sinacori, age 20, was not a UMass Police Department snitch, err, I mean informant.  He was a "witness" in a case against a drug dealer.

Kind of a BIG difference wouldn't you say? 

Although I'm going out on a journalistic limb at the moment by not corroborating that claim with another reliable source, but if you can't trust the District Attorney who can you trust?

And one of my other problems with the original Globe article was they seemed to think they could guarantee the young man's anonymity.  In this day and age.

I had a couple dozen Google referrals on Sunday to the story I did four months ago from folks doing a search for "acute heroin intoxication, Amherst".

Even the Gazette figured it out, since the Globe article published the date he died.  And the medical examiner has to file a death certificate in the municipality in which the person died (although it takes six months).

UMass PR folks at first seemed to be showing support to UMPD, but backed down last night and issued a statement from the Chancellor suspending the use of informants until a full review.  Today both the Boston Globe and Springfield Republican did editorials cheering that backpedaling.

I have no problem with requiring informants to get counseling if indeed they are addicted.  But to require parents be informed is simply a deal breaker.  You might as was well require UMPD to take out an ad in the Daily Collegian naming their informants.  

So yes, even though (apparently) Eric Sinacori was not a police informant, PR conscious UMass will probably go ahead and kill the program anyway.

And a year or two from now some kid will die of an OD that could have been prevented if his/her dealer was arrested via use of an informant. 


Anonymous said...

Does Chancellor Subbaswamy buy these things off the rack without looking? I've never seen him dress in anything that fits him or has a well balanced color combination. His jacket is two sizes too large and his pants are dragging on the ground. Forget the tie and shirt that makes him look like the desk clerk at a hotel. What happened to dressing well and looking good. Certainly a reflection of the man and his leadership abilities.

Tom McBride said...

How about the UMPD (as well as the university), did they bear any responsibility in this debacle?

Larry Kelley said...

Well the University is just being their usual wishy-washy self.

But no, I don't see anything wrong with UMPD using a student as a witness in a drug case and offering perks for his testimony -- as long as it takes a bigger dealer off the streets.

Tom McBride said...

The UMPD enforces the drug laws so must know that addiction is an awful accident waiting to happen. I assume anyway.

And if the action (serving as a witness or informant or whatever) took a bigger dealer off the street, was it worth sacrificing the life of this young man?

Larry Kelley said...

Well you word that in a very loaded way.

I'm assuming his serving as a witness did take a bigger dealer off the street.

But if UMPD had told his parents, or the University had expelled him, or he never served as a witness, he could still have ended up dead from an OD.

Anonymous said...

At 18 you are an adult-ready or not. 20? Come on, if you are going to deal with drugs, it often times is unpleasant in many ways. Sad story, but that was poor journalism by amateurs, used by the Globe, to make UMASS look bad.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I would think that any college or university I sent my child to would act in their best interest and try to help them. And that they would tell me that they found him/her selling drugs and with a needle. This is an utter failure to help this kid.

Dr. Ed said...

How is it established that he was not a confidential informant? That's what a cooperating witness is -- and if I remember my ConLaw, no matter how confidential he/she/it is -- that person gotta testify at trial or there are 4th Amendment issues and the evidence is gone.

Sally Linowoski is part of ACT -- how the hell did they NOT know he was into drugs (maybe LSD instead of Heroin) when the UMPD (also part of ACT) arrested him.

Sure Enku Gelaye (who chairs ACT) decided not to suspend him or tell his parents, but she still could have done somethign about his addiction.

What in that Globe story isn't true?

And one other thing -- the UMPD is so screwed up right now, who says some *cop* didn't tell him he was a confidential informant?

And I like to think they aren't stupid enough to give him a number like CI-8 or CI-9 because guess what that tells him (and everyone else) -- yep, he ain't the only one...

Anonymous said...

Why would the kid have explained his reason for turning rat, (to avoid 5 year jail sentence,) via text message to another guy who called him out for being a rat, if he wasn't a rat?

Call him a witness, call him an informant, he collaborated with the cops to bring down another drug dealer.

But along with whether or not his parents should have been informed, the "witness vs, informant" issue is the asking the wrong question.

Larry Kelley said...

No it's not.

What we've got here is failure to communicate.

The real issue is a promising 20 year old is dead from heroin that he voluntarily put in his own bloodstream.

Dr. Ed said...

"The real issue is a promising 20 year old is dead from heroin that he voluntarily put in his own bloodstream."

No Larry, this really is all about three words: In Loco Parentis

When you were 18, you were considered an adult -- the drinking age was 18 -- you were considered an adult and held accountable as such. It was largely that way when I was 18 -- the concept of the university calling my parents and tattling on me was unthinkable -- it literally was illegal at the time -- as was the thought of UMass punishing a student for something he/she/it did downtown.

In loco parentis has returned and I tried to remind people that it is a responsibility, not an empowerment. Yes, it grants you authority over the student -- but only for the purpose of meeting your duty to the student's parents -- and you impose such a duty upon yourself (UMass) when you assume these in loco parentis powers.

UMass doesn't pretend to treat students as adults anymore -- it promises their parents that it will, essentially, protect them from harm. To act in the place of their loving parents, and all the rest. That's what in loco parentis is Latin for...

Once you say you are going to do something, you are also liable for negligence if you don't, and that's the real problem here. UMass didn't have to establish a mandated reporter policy, but once it did, it is negligent for not following it in this instance.

UMass is negligent here.

Anonymous said...

Once you are 18, what is all this discussion of parents? They are no longer responsible parties.

Only in everyone a child forever, needing constant oversight and meetings to manage.

Let's do our job and keep the children in Amherst and the adults in the real world.

Dr. Ed said...

Let me try to state this a different way. I know a bit about Heroin, I helped my cousin bury his son.

Earle (his middle name) was in his 30's and running a marina in Florida when he died of an overdose. Tragic, yes, but he voluntarily put it into his bloodstream -- he was an adult, he and he alone had control over (and hence responsibility for) his life. And for his death.

I think this is where you are going with Logan -- he was an adult, 20 years old, with total control over and hence responsibility for his life. And hence for his death.

But that's not true -- not in the era of in loco parentis.

A UM student doesn't have control over his/her/its life (or sometimes, even his/her/its body) -- much as like with a 12 year old, a UM student is under the parental authority and hence control of the institution.

Do you have any idea of the extent to which the "therapeutic state" is established at Planet UMass? From the mandatory alcohol assessment every freshman must complete before registering for spring semester classes to the "mandated reporter" policy to psychological judicial sanctions, it's in loco parentis on steroids.

UMass was under no burden to do this, but in choosing to do so they then became burdened with the responsibility of doing it -- for every student.

Larry, it is like this: you don't have to change the tire on my car -- but if you do, you gotta remember to put the lug nuts back on. If you don't, if you put the hubcap back on and tell me I am good-to-go -- and the tire falls off, you're liable.

After all, you told me that you put the nuts back on, and I trusted you on that. Maybe I should have checked it myself (and I personally would), but I relied on your promise, and as a result, my tire fell off, I lost control of the car and ran over & killed a child playing on the sidewalk.

I'm going to go to the distraught parents and say "It's Larry's fault!" And it is -- you shouldn't have told me you put the lug nuts on if you hadn't.

Remember, you didn't have to change the tire in the first place, but if you do, you gotta do it right. Particularly if I'm paying you and particularly if you are presenting yourself to the public as someone who knows what he is doing (i.e. "Larry's Garage").

Same thing with UMass. They don't have to exercise in loco parentis but once they tell the parents that they are (parents who are paying them a lot of money we should remember), UM's gotta remember to put those lug nuts back on...

Dr. Ed said...

"Once you are 18, what is all this discussion of parents? They are no longer responsible parties. Only in everyone a child forever, needing constant oversight and meetings to manage."

I agree.

Commercial fishing is the most dangerous job in the country with an annual on-the-job death rate in excess of 1:1000 workers. You make a mistake and people die, and I was 15 years old and in command of a vessel.

The problem is in loco parentis and it is why I so vehemently oppose it. It is also why I oppose enforcement of the 21-year-old drinking age (above age 18) -- the goal was to get the alcohol out of the high schools, not colleges -- and I have a really hard time with the concept that an 1/19/20 year old is not mature enough to possess alcohol but mature enough to be held responsible for possessing it.

That's where this all started, and when you throw in the therapeutic state, no one ever is responsible for anything, but I digress...

The problem is in loco parentis -- UMass has adopted it and that means that the students are not responsible. For anything.

They are not responsible because they are not adults and that is the problem -- UM has taken their adulthood away from them.

Anonymous said...

Ed... You make some good points here. Could you please do some legal research for us about whether UMass violated the student's substantive due process rights by creating the danger that led to his drug overdose and death?

jaf bm said...

If the student is under 18, aren't they required by law to inform the parents?

Anonymous said...

The Gazette today says that according to UMass, He was a confidential informant (& not just a witness) and that "There's no doubt he signed confidential informant papers," according to UMass spokesman Blaguszewski.

It's a big surprising that the DA's statement was so strongly worded saying the opposite.

Anonymous said...

Remember, everyone is trying to save face. This revelation is a huge scare to the University. It says that drugs are rampant on campus and if you send your kid here, he/she will become a drug addict too. Nothing worse for this university than this story so they are doing everything they can to get everyone to change he story.

Anonymous said...

Typical Larry. DA's office and police can do NO wrong. And he tries to sell himself as a legitimate journalist. If school personnel or committee members were trying to draw such a distinction between being a confidential witness (in exchange for immunity) and an informant he would be all over their attempts to spin the situation. But because this is a law enforcement issue he's ready to buy the big pile of self protective bullish*t. What about the return of the $700 in cash that had been seized during this young person's drug arrest? Do run of the mill "witnesses" get compensated like that? C'mon, Larry! Take your blinders off.

Bill Newman, who Larry usually lauds as an expert in the realm of civil liberties, had an interesting show with the UMASS journalism student who broke the story: The segment starts midway through the program and is worth a listen.

Dr. Ed said...

whether UMass violated the student's substantive due process rights by creating the danger that led to his drug overdose and death?

Don't have the time, I'm afraid.

It's also a moot point -- UM is liable for negligence -- ACT should have and was supposed to have been aware of him. It is a moot point if they were or not -- they were supposed to so it doesn't matter if they screwed up in not being aware of him or screwed up in mismanaging his case.

They have created the duty -- on their own iniative -- of intervening in all substance abuse issues, most of which involve a far less likelyhood of fatality. People don't die from ETOH, they go to CDH and then to ACT, both AFD & CDH is nice enough to tell UMass about them.

ACT is a clearignhouse -- the UMPD is supposed to tell everything they know about any student that is a potential threat to self or others, which doing Heroin (or even LSD) definitely makes you.

Furthermore, there is no way that the UMPD could have "reached out" with drug treatment assistance because anyone whom they had lined up to provide it would have passed this up to ACT even if the UMPD didn't. Remember that both Linowiski (UHS Alcohol/Drug) and Rockland-Miller (CCPH -- the UM Mental Health folk) are *ON* ACT.

My issue is that while ACT is a general rape of student rights, it is justified on the basis that it prevents tragedies like this.

Well, Enku, ACT didn't prevent this tragedy, did it?!?!?!?

Anonymous said...

I was a witness to a crime once, but the police didn't absolve me of any criminal responsibilities in exchange for making a statement. I guess next time I should look to cut some kind of a deal for a future infraction.

When you tell a drug addict who you just confiscated $700.00 from, "be at this place at this time because you need to witness something in order to get off and get your money back so you can buy your drugs", that's a bit outside of any definition of "witness to a crime" I've ever heard!

Despicable! Not a good year so far for local PD's.

Larry Kelley said...

I acted as an "expert witness" on a public safety bill put forth by Senators Kennedy and Thurmond, and my airfare/hotel/food expenses to Washington D.C. were all paid.

Anonymous said...

Too bad you didn't think of requesting being able to commit a crime with no consequences in exchange for being an "expert witness" instead, that could have been more lucrative.

Anonymous said...

The embedded, unexamined assumptions in this comments section are like stars in the sky, sands on the beach.

Too numerous to count.

Exhibit A: Anon 2:35 pm

Anonymous said...

The cops put this kid in a dangerous situation that could have lead to him being strung up by "bigger" drug dealers if he hadn't died of an overdose.

Larry Kelley said...

Well I think the way it works is the "bigger" drug dealer get arrested and goes to jail.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they can put this all in a new brochure for prospective students and their parent.

Anonymous said...

No, I mean the other bigger drug dealers and then the ones that are even bigger than that. You don't actually believe all the "big drug dealers" are in jail right now, do you? Do you really believe these 20-year-old drug addicts at UMass are running a smuggling operation?

Anonymous said...

"In addition to our state-of-the-art athletic facilities and world-class faculty, we have an elaborate network of credibly addicted police informants who will bring to justice any campus kingpins before they sell that first bit of blow to your pride and joy."

Anonymous said...

As a DEA officer once told me;"You all watch too much TV."

Anonymous said...

"As a DEA officer once told me;"You all watch too much TV."


Who needs to watch TV. All one has to do is watch what goes on at the University of Massachusetts - riots to drug dealers to covering up suicides and everything in between. What a fantastic school.

Anonymous said...

I know a family whose father was killed for collaborating with police around illegal gambling. people all the time are being charged with witness intimidation.

10:14 AM, you are the one who is not in touch with the reality of what happens, maybe you're too entrenched in the law enforcement culture.

Anonymous said...

COPS RULE!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

10:14's "DEA friend" watches too many cop shows and not enough of the evening news.

Anonymous said...

To understand UMass, remember one thign: It's not about the students.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the greater issue; an adult chose to be a drug dealer, addict, and snitch. He killed himself via overdose. Should he have ruined as many other peoples lives as he could before he ODed? Is that the sad part? Anyone in an official capacity is responsible for calling an adults parents? I just don't understand how this is anything exceptional. If being an informant was a safe, well paid career, with a long life expectancy then you would be doing it.

Anonymous said...

The cops put him in this dangerous situation? Not his addiction? Or his willingness to ruin other peoples lives to stay high? You would make a great confidential informant.