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With help of Rachel Hoffman's parents, House approves police informer rules

Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, the bill’s sponsor, meets with Margie Weiss, the mother of the late Rachel Hoffman.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Tarpon Springs, the bill’s sponsor, meets with Margie Weiss, the mother of the late Rachel Hoffman.

TALLAHASSEE — With the anniversary of their daughter's death a week away, Rachel Hoffman's parents swelled with tears Monday as lawmakers passed a bill to protect police informers.

The legislation, to be known as Rachel's Law if the Senate gives approval and Gov. Charlie Crist signs it, as is expected, got unanimous approval in the House.

But some of the bill's strongest provisions were stripped out in recent weeks after law enforcement groups said it would hinder their ability to use informers, a time-honored practice.

"It's a foundation," conceded Hoffman's mother, Margie Weiss, who wore a purple beret Monday in honor of the floppy purple hat her 23-year-old daughter liked to don at concerts.

"We can come back next year and get the stronger amendments added," Weiss said. "We've been busy this year grieving. The fact that we've accomplished this much is a blessing, it's a miracle."

Rachel Hoffman, who went to Countryside High School in Clearwater and Florida State University, agreed last April to become a police informer after officers found marijuana and ecstasy in her Tallahassee apartment. She was found dead of gunshot wounds on May 9 after police gave her $13,000 to buy 1,500 ecstasy pills, cocaine and a gun from suspected drug dealers. Two men have been arrested.

The bill establishes minimum standards that law enforcement groups must meet when dealing with informers.

It calls on agencies to take into account a person's age and maturity, emotional state and the level of risk a mission would entail. Police also would be barred from promising an informer more lenient treatment; only prosecutors and judges can do that.

The Senate version is sponsored by New Port Richey Republican Mike Fasano.

Not included are several provisions Hoffman's parents said could have prevented their daughter's death, including barring anyone in a drug treatment program, as Rachel was, from going on undercover drug buys.

It was further diluted on Friday, when the House adopted an amendment that removes the right of an informer to challenge charges if the new guidelines are not followed.

But Hoffman's mother and father, and a dozen purple-hat-wearing friends who joined them at the Capitol, chose to reflect on the positive Monday.

"We hope to move forward with this and make sure this never happens to anyone again," a teary Irv Hoffman said.

With help of Rachel Hoffman's parents, House approves police informer rules 04/27/09 [Last modified: Monday, April 27, 2009 11:36pm]
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