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Undercover Drug Cop Arrests Autistic Student


When it comes to the war on drugs, I thought I had seen it all. But I was shocked beyond belief when I read a story reported by ABC News about a high school student who suffered from Asperger’s disorder and was arrested by an undercover cop posing as a student.

The parents of the 17 year old special-needs student are now suing the Temecula Valley Unified School District for allowing undercover narcotic officers to set up their son in a drug sting, in which he and about two dozen other students were arrested in December of 2012.

Parents Catherine and Doug Snodgrass were overjoyed when their son — who had trouble making friends because of his disorder, which is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction — suddenly had found a friend. But, the friend in question was actually an undercover cop who started to pursue the Snodgrass’s son as soon as he began attending Chaparral High School. ABC News reported that Doug Snodgrass said, “He suddenly had this friend who was texting him around the clock.” The friend, “Daniel,” however, was an undercover cop with the Temecula Police Department who “hounded” the teenager to sell him his prescription medication. When he refused, the undercover cop gave him $20 to buy him some weed, and the young Mr. Snodgrass complied — not realizing the guy he wanted to befriend wanted him behind bars.

Earlier this year, a juvenile court judge sentenced Snodgrass’s son to 20 hours of community service instead of criminal charges because of the special circumstances of the case. But since being allowed back to school, he has been constantly threatened with expulsion. Temecula Valley Unified School District said in a statement that “the district continues to act in furtherance of its mission to educate students.” In response, the Snodgrass family is now suing the school.

The use of undercover drug stings is nothing new to me. I experienced this in 1985 when I was set up by a teammate I knew from my bowling league. I passed an envelope containing 4 ounces of cocaine for the sum of $500. For my first time, nonviolent drug offense, I was sentenced to 15 years to life under the Rockefeller Drug Laws of NYS. While in prison I became a jailhouse lawyer that served the needs of the prison population. It was there that I discovered that the use of undercover cops to entrap individuals was standard policy procedure.

The war on drugs has created convenient vehicles for looking tough on crime while hiding being the shield of public safety. But that shield gets worn down when our basic rights are curtailed through its use. To send undercover drug cops into schools is shameful, and it is sadly just one example of how the government — in its unwinnable quest to win the drug war — has routinely disregarded our precious given rights as outlined in the Constitution.

Students are on the frontlines of the war on drugs. Whether it comes in the form of random, suspicion-less drug testing, or police dogs sniffing around school lockers for drugs, or cops pretending to be your friend only to try to ruin your life, students continue to feel the heavy-handedness of the government’s overzealous and futile efforts to keep them “drug-free.”

ANTHONY PAPA is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and Communications Specialist for Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at:

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

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