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Rachel Hoffman civil trial to begin Wednesday — Jan. 4th, 2012

(Commentary Below Typed In Bold)

Freedom Of The Press Group Feels That Rachel Hoffman’s Family Should Get 10 Million Dollars From The City Of Tallahassee For The Negligence And Incompetence Of Tallahassee Police.  These Officers are Public Servants Paid By The Tax Payers To Protect People Especially When They Have  A Drug Informant Under Their Command.

It’s quite obvious that the City Of Tallahassee has their “Good Ol’ Boy” Circuit Court Judge Of James O. Shelfer In Their Pocket.  This Judge is very dirty, dishonest and corrupt for not allowing the official reports to be shared with jurors based on the lawsuit.  This judge is obviously protecting the City And Not The Public In His “Kangaroo Courtroom”.  Shelfer should have denied the City’s Request for hiding their screw-ups resulting in the civil lawsuit by the family.  The Internal Affairs Reports, disciplinary actions, police policy changes should never be excluded from the evidence.  This includes the grand jury presentment and information about Rachel’s Law.  Way To Go Shelfer For Being Bought By The City’s Corruption And Not That By The People That Pay You To Serve As A Public Servant Of Tax Payer’s Dollars.  These Public Records Are Paid By The Citizens And Owned By The Public!  

 

11:19 AM, Dec. 31, 2011

Jennifer Portman Democrat Senior Writer

Nearly four years after Tallahassee police confidential informant Rachel Hoffman was killed in a botched drug sting, her parents’ wrongful-death case against the city is set to begin next week.

Jury selection in the civil trial, for which Circuit Judge James O. Shelfer has set aside four weeks, will start Wednesday. It could take two days or more for attorneys for the city of Tallahassee and Hoffman’s parents, Irv Hoffman and Margie Weiss, to cull a jury of six from more than 100 potential jurors who are expected to be called to the Leon County Courthouse. Jurors are likely to be questioned about the impact of publicity surrounding the high-profile case, their willingness to hand out large monetary damages and their ability to serve for a lengthy trial.

The city’s attorney Steve Carter and the family’s lawyer Lance Block, as well as Irv Hoffman and Weiss, declined to comment in advance of the trial. But pretrial court documents show the city plans a vigorous defense against the claim that the Tallahassee Police Department was negligent in its use of the 23-year-old Florida State graduate as a confidential informant and should be held liable for her death. Rachel Hoffman, of Safety Harbor, was helping police in a buy-bust operation when she was shot execution-style on dead-end Gardner Road in northern Leon County on May 7, 2008.

The first-time confidential informant, who was trying to work off a drug arrest three weeks earlier, was sent alone in her Volvo with $13,000 in marked money to buy cocaine, Ecstasy and a handgun from two suspects at Forestmeadows Park. Inv. Ryan Pender, who along with other officers had been following Hoffman up Meridian Road, lost visual contact with her when he stopped short of the park to get in position to audio record the bust. Pender assumed that she would follow his instructions to turn left at the park entrance.

But Hoffman, who was unfamiliar with the area and had previously disobeyed Pender’s orders, instead followed the men to nearby Gardner Road where police lost track of her and she was shot five times. By the time city officers located the county road, all they could find was a black flip flop.

Hoffman’s body was found 36 hours later, dumped in a wooded ditch off a rural Taylor County road. Step-brothers-in-law Denelio Bradshaw and Andrea Green are serving life sentences for her murder. The civil trial will play out in the same courtroom as that of the emotionally-charged 2009 criminal trial against Bradshaw. In court filings, attorneys for the city contend the police department was not responsible for Hoffman’s death because it was her decision to not follow Pender’s direct orders that put her in harm’s way.

Documents show that the city also is likely to make an issue of Hoffman’s prior involvement with drugs, including past arrests and her use and sale of marijuana going back to high school.

Attorneys for Hoffman’s parents counter that her past drug use has no bearing on the city’s negligence in its handling of their free-spirited, ginger-haired only child, nor in her understanding of the life-threatening risks she faced as a confidential informant.

A police Internal Affairs report conducted in the wake of her killing found 21 violations of nine polices by officers related to their handling of Hoffman, resulting in the reprimand of Police Chief Dennis Jones, the suspension of four senior officers and the firing of Pender. (He later appealed his termination and was reinstated.)

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office found even more problems with TPD’s actions and, in a scathing presentment, a Leon County Grand Jury said police were negligent in letting Hoffman out of their sight and never should have sent her off alone. Jones himself said in a 2008 interview with the Tallahassee Democrat that it was clear early on that she wasn’t cut out to be an informant and that Pender should have dismissed her long before May 7.

None of those reports, however, will be shared with jurors. At the city’s request, Shelfer ordered that the Internal Affairs report and any disciplinary action or police policy changes be excluded from evidence, along with the grand jury presentment and information about Rachel’s Law, which Hoffman’s parents spearheaded and became the nation’s first law aimed at protecting confidential informants.

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