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Details emerge on how woman became informer

TALLAHASSEE — Rachel Hoffman sent a text message to her boyfriend soon before going undercover as a confidential informant for the Tallahassee Police Department.

"This is about to go down," he remembers her writing.

Two days later, her body was found in Taylor County. The drug sting had gone bad.

On Monday, Tallahassee police Chief Dennis Jones asked the Florida attorney general to review the events that led to Hoffman's death, including the Police Department's procedures.

"It's such an unusual occurrence, and with the public attention that's been called to it, it called not only for our internal review but also an outside review," Jones told the Tallahassee Democrat. "The AG seemed like a good place to get a second opinion."

Hoffman, 23, a graduate of Countryside High School in Pinellas County and Florida State University, was supposed to meet two men Wednesday to buy 1,500 pills of ecstasy, 2 ounces of cocaine or crack and a gun. She had $12,000 to $15,000 in cash when she met the men, said her boyfriend, Ben Reeves.

At 6:41 p.m., she sent Reeves the last text message.

"She trusted the police," Reeves said. "The cops were supposed to keep her alive. She was a pawn in their game."

On Monday, State Attorney Willie Meggs and Tallahassee Mayor John Marks asked why other agencies weren't alerted about Hoffman's status as an informer and whether an "outside entity" should investigate.

"The Tallahassee community deserves an explanation of what occurred," Marks said. "I feel confident we will achieve that result."

The two men Hoffman had planned to meet — Andrea J. Green, 25, and Deneilo R. Bradshaw, 23 — were arrested in Orlando on charges of robbery and kidnapping. They have not been charged with murder.

New details released Monday shed more light on how Hoffman went from police informer to murder victim.

Hoffman had been twice arrested on charges of underage drinking and gotten three traffic tickets before February 2007.

That's when she was arrested on charges of marijuana possession and resisting arrest. She entered a pretrial drug diversion program to resolve those charges, according to court records.

She checked in regularly with the court but missed a hearing last summer, leading to another arrest, court records showed.

Then on April 17, Tallahassee police served a search warrant at her apartment and found marijuana and ecstasy, according to police records.

She faced "significant jail time" if she had been charged with running a drug house and intending to sell marijuana and ecstasy, Officer David McCranie said. Instead, he said, she agreed to become an informer, and police didn't press their case or book her as a result of the search.

"The police told her if she got guns and some bad drugs off the street, she would only have to do one or two stings," Reeves said. "She was supposed to do the bust and get off scot-free of her charges."

Both the Police Department and Hoffman kept mum about the arrangement.

Hoffman, whose funeral is today, only told her mother, Margie Weiss.

"She told her daughter not to do it," said the family's attorney, Johnny Devine. "When she didn't hear back from her, she assumed she had taken her advice."

The FSU psychology graduate didn't mention a word of her work to her father, Irv Hoffman of Palm Harbor.

"I would have never let her do that," Hoffman said. "This is way out of her league."

Meggs said Monday his agency didn't know about the search in April. Police are supposed to alert him when a defendant has been arrested or has become an informer because "it's a violation of the drug court terms," he said.

"We're supposed to be alerted, but I don't know how many times we've not been alerted," Meggs said.

But the Tallahassee Police Department said its policy is to alert the State Attorney's Office when an offender has violated probation. Hoffman wasn't on probation, McCranie said. She was on "diversion."

"Diversion is significantly different from probation, and such a charge would not hamper her ability to complete the diversion program," McCranie said.

McCranie said Hoffman was advised to the dangers of the job.

"We weren't trying to hide anything here," he said. "Our job is not to ask you or give you legal advice. Ours is to provide you with some options, and then you as an adult, make the informed decision."

Informers do not go through any formal training, but they are advised of police procedure and rules, McCranie said. The agency has maintained that Hoffman "broke protocol," when she agreed to follow Green and Bradshaw to an "off-site" location.

The agency lost track of her until her body turned up.

Hoffman's service is at 11 a.m. today at Temple Ahavat Shalom, 1575 Curlew Road in Palm Harbor.

Details emerge on how woman became informer 05/12/08 [Last modified: Saturday, May 17, 2008 11:44pm]
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