As is my customary practice, I mulled over a subject for this week’s column. Politics was an option, as were the recent shootings. I was browsing ideas when the date Nov. 22 caught my eye.
Nov. 22 was my mother’s birthday and the date John F. Kennedy was assassinated 52 years ago. The Nov. 22 that caught my eye, though, was the birthday of a much, much younger individual ― Andrew Sadek, a student at the North Dakota College of Science in Wahpeton.
Andrew, according to all reports I’ve come across, was a good student, had good college friends and was very close to his parents, John and Tammy Sadek. He often helped them with their cattle ranch near Rogers, N.D.
As a student at NDSCS, Andrew was just two weeks away from graduation. He was considering a job offer in Bismarck. He had a new girlfriend, and life seemed to be going very well.
As many young people do, though, Andrew was experimenting with the sale of marijuana. Along the way, he sold to a confidential informant, not once but about three times. Each time, it happened on NDSCS campus. Under the law, that incurred greatly enhanced penalties because it was a sale in a “school zone.” There is nothing I’ve read to indicate that at the time of those sales he was aware of the enhanced penalties.
As a general rule, the outcome of the sale of small amounts of marijuana ― when charged and if convicted ― is a deferred imposition of sentence, which results in a dismissal if the conditions of deferment are met.
Andrew, however, did not have an attorney to advise him about this. He was told by a member of the Southeast Multi-County Agency that if he cooperated with them in an undercover investigation of other dealers, he could avoid a jail sentence of up to 40 years … with no mention of deferment or reduction. Lo and behold, the 20-year-old (on his birthday, no less) jumped at the chance to stay out of trouble.
Everything SEMCA did was legal, but somehow the element of conscience was missing. Law enforcement has a tough job, but growing up in today’s environment is just as tough. Young people do experiment with these things. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s nevertheless a fact.
Andrew may have told the agents he knew what he was signing as a confidential informant for SEMCA, and SEMCA can say he understood ― but understood what? Don’t argue that this was fair because he was (barely) an adult. At that age, you’re still growing into adulthood … but you haven’t reached it.
I cannot see anywhere in the report prepared at the request of the North Dakota attorney general any indication that anyone told Andrew that if you sign up and act as a confidential informant, you could be injured or murdered. It is beyond me to understand how in God’s name that warning wasn’t clearly stated.
Anyone who knows of my judicial past knows that I support strict enforcement and sentencing when the shoe fits. But this case and its aftermath are giving me fits.
Andrew honored his agreement with SEMCA up to a point. Then, for reasons not stated, he stopped contacting them.
A parent’s worst nightmare began May 1, when Andrew left his dorm in Wahpeton, never to be seen alive again. He had spent that evening watching movies with his friends. He’d been home helping his dad with chores just the previous weekend; family and friends remember him in the best of moods. Never has there been a suggestion that he seemed fearful or depressed ― an observation supported by his good college grades.
When his friends reported him missing the next day, Campus Police initially processed the matter. Then, the nightmare commenced.
He was found two months later on the Minnesota side of the Red River, about a mile from the NDSCS campus, according to reports. He was not wearing the same clothing that friends had described at the time of his disappearance, also seen in campus security footage. His sweatshirt was missing, and the jacket found on his body did not appear to be his own.
Andrew was wearing a backpack that had been filled with rocks. He had been shot.
Some say it was suicide, but I ask you this: They found his body and the spot where he entered the water. Guns don’t float. After a careful search, no gun was ever found. Also, his billfold was missing. If one applies common sense to these facts, what would you conclude? There were no indications in this young man’s life to conclude he committed suicide. But there are plenty of facts to suggest a cold-blooded murder.
Tammy Sadek told a reporter that, when she and her husband brought Andrew’s car home from campus, they found the trunk carpeting soaked and water in the spare wheel well, suggesting to them that someone had cleaned the trunk. Her theory ― neither proven nor disproven ― was that her son was murdered, placed in the trunk of his own car, driven to the river and dumped. Then the car was somehow returned to campus and cleaned up. No forensic tests appear to have been done to obtain fingerprints, blood and DNA. That car may have been a source of evidence.
The attorney general asked for a report addressing the Andrew Sadek case. The professional report indicated that everything SEMCA did was legal, but it didn’t address the issues I raise.
Why, with all of their experience and equipment and know-how, was the FBI not asked to join the post-death process by the North Dakota attorney general?
The parents of this young man have done the right thing in airing their concerns and trying to get some answers. But they should never have had to ask. The powers that be should have kept them informed along the way. As a parent myself, I find that lack of information unforgivable.
Andrew Sadek was a bright young man, a human being, not a bad person … and he deserved more. With the facts as outlined, I believe that Andrew’s murderer is still out there. Someone knows something. This isn’t sensationalism. This is comparing what is known with what has not been done.
Andrew was never charged with a crime. He never appeared in court. He never had the advice of an attorney. He was just 20 years old on the day he died.