Just ahead of Tuesday's scheduled deposition of officer Daniel Zipperstein, a/k/a Daniel Briggs, a/k/a Deputy Dan, a/k/a the undercover police officer who targeted our son, Jesse, this appeared in the Sunday edition of the LA Times.
Jesse Snodgrass had recently transferred to Chaparral High School in Temecula and was feeling out of place and alone in 2012 when a boy named Dan, another newcomer, befriended him. Jesse, a 17-year-old autistic student, wasn't good at making friends and he was pleased by the overture. But there was something he didn't know about Dan: He was an undercover narcotics officer attending class at Chaparral hoping to bust student drug dealers.The piece was written by Theshia Naidoo and Lynne Lyman, senior staff attorney and California state director, respectively, for our an organization that we partner with, the Drug Policy Alliance.
Dan quickly began exerting pressure on Jesse to sneak a pill from his parent's medicine cabinet or buy him some marijuana. Jesse, whose demeanor and speech clearly signal his autism, was at first at a loss for how to meet his friend's request. But he finally sought out a homeless man near a dispensary and traded a $20 bill Dan had given him for a plastic bag containing less than a gram of marijuana leaves. A few months after the two young men met, Jesse was arrested and found himself alone and bewildered in juvenile detention.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department regularly targets high school students, sometimes, as in this case, inspiring crime where it otherwise would not have existed. In the last four years, the department has staged four undercover sting operations in which adult officers, masquerading as high school students, repeatedly pressured students to obtain illegal substances for them. Over the last four years, nearly 100 students, a number of whom were special-needs students, have been arrested.
But we as a society still have some soul-searching to do. Should we really allow adults to dress up as kids, embed themselves in school classrooms and trick children into breaking the law?
Children should receive honest drug education from their schools, not face deception and betrayal by people they think are their peers. Inevitably, as in the case of Jesse Snodgrass, high school drug stings will ensnare some students who would never have been involved in obtaining or selling drugs without being manipulated by undercover officers. Is pushing students into illicit activities really the best use of scant law enforcement resources?
As referenced above, Deputy Dan, the undercover police officer who we believe entrapped our son, will be under oath for his deposition tomorrow. He has been scheduled for this previously, and on multiple occasions, he has cancelled at the 11th hour. However, it appears that tomorrow is going forward, and we will be there.
Our legal expenses are significant, and we do need to raise more funds to pay for other upcoming depositions, which are coming out of our pocket, unlike the Temecula Valley Unified School District's legal fees, which are being paid by our taxes. We appreciate any donations to the Jesse Snodgrass Legal Fund.
It is disheartening that people who are accepting paychecks that include our tax dollars, are willing to participate in actions that they know will end in children going to jail, and having their futures destroyed. Yet they have neither the courage nor decency to be accountable for these actions. So we are forcing the accountability.
And by the way, the school district is still taking the position, and trying to prove in this lawsuit, that Jesse is a drug dealer.
Some of you know that Rolling Stone published The Entrapment of Snodgrass a little over a month ago. It pleased us to see that in the mag's current issue, they gave it a lot of attention in their Correspondence section (see below and click to make larger).