With a 4-1 decision Tuesday, Sept. 15, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit over the death of a college student turned confidential informant.
Andrew Sadek, prior to his May 2014 disappearance in Wahpeton, was a first year student at North Dakota State College of Science. He subsequently worked as an undercover drug informant following being detained for selling $80 worth of marijuana on campus.
Following Andrew’s death, Tammy and John Sadek filed a wrongful death, fraud and deceit suit against Richland County, North Dakota, and Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber.
There is no evidence of whether Andrew Sadek died as a result of suicide, homicide or accident, Judge Jay Schmitz wrote in May 2019. Justice Daniel Crothers, giving the supreme court’s majority opinion, made a similar statement.
“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,” Crothers wrote.
Tammy Sadek said she was disappointed in North Dakota’s judicial system.
“I am also super grateful to our legal team for getting Andrew’s Law passed, which was priority No. 1,” Sadek said.
Attorney Tatum O’Brien, Fargo, argued for the Sadeks. Attorney Corey Quinton, Fargo, argued for Weber and the sheriff’s office.
“I’m not sure what our law team is going to do next. I believe they have 14 days to appeal the decision. We’re leaving it up to them,” Tammy Sadek said.
O’Brien was unavailable for comment.
“We have tremendous empathy and sympathy for the family under the circumstances,” Quinton said. “At the same time, we do feel that both the trial court and supreme court made the right decisions under the facts.”
It is his understanding, Quinton said, that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension still has an open investigation concerning Sadek’s death. As far as the lawsuit against Weber and the Richland County Sheriff’s Office is concerned, it is Quinton’s opinion that it has concluded.
“I do think this was the correct legal and factual decision,” Quinton said.
Citing the open Minnesota investigation, Weber declined comment.
Justice Gerald VandeWalle dissented with the North Dakota Supreme Court. The Sadeks, VandeWalle wrote, did provide sufficient evidence to create genuine issues of material fact.
“I believe the close proximity in time between the May 1 (2014) 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 fact-finder to draw a reasonable inference that the defendants’ conduct was a proximate cause of his death,” VandeWalle wrote.
Weber, according to the court decision, allegedly told Sadek on Nov. 22, 2013 that he was facing two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge. Weber allegedly told Sadek the felony charges could result in up to 40 years in prison and a “good possibility” existed he would get some prison time if he did not act as a confidential informant.
“Weber stated ‘a lot of this could go away’ in exchange for his work as a confidential informant,” the decision continues. “Sadek agreed to work as a confidential informant, signing a cooperating individual agreement. Weber told Sadek it was important for him not to tell anyone, including other law enforcement, that he was working as an informant.”
By January 2014, the decision continues, Sadek did three controlled buys of marijuana from two people but subsequently lost contact with Weber.
“In April 2014, Weber contacted Sadek, stating that he would pursue the felony charges on April 2013 drug sales unless Sadek lined up additional buys and that Sadek should ask around if he did not know anyone wanting to buy marijuana,” the decision continues.
Sadek was given a deadline of May 1, 2014 to get the next deal done. He was reported missing that day. A body later identified as Sadek was found in the Red River on June 27, 2014.
“When his remains were found, his backpack was tied to him and was full of rocks,” the decision continues. “The coroner determined Sadek died of a gunshot wound to the head, but the range of fire was not determined. No determination was made whether the cause of death was homicide, suicide or accidental.”
Following his death, Sadek’s parents worked to craft what’s known as “Andrew’s Law,” providing increased standards for use of confidential informants. It was signed into law following the 65th North Dakota Legislative Assembly in 2017.
Public support is encouraging and uplifting, Tammy Sadek said in June 2016.
“Someday I think we’re going to have an answer, but I don’t know when,” she said.