UPDATED February 13, 2012 by Lanetra Bennett
The $2.6 million settlement between the City of Tallahassee and the parents of slain police informant Rachel Hoffman still needs an okay from the Florida Legislature.
The settlement could depend on a hearing held Monday.
The special masters hearing is the first step in the process of Florida legislators determining whether to pass the Hoffman claims bill. The Hoffman Family attorney laid out evidence to try to convince them to do so.
"There's no drug deal that's worth the life or the safety of a C.I." Says, Attorney Lance Block.
Block never got the chance to present his case in civil court in the death of Tallahassee Police informant Rachel Hoffman.
The City of Tallahassee and Hoffman's parents reached a $2.6 million settlement on the eve of trial in January.
Monday, Block got to present his evidence during what's called a Special Masters Hearing.
Block contends the police violated eleven policies when Hoffman was killed during a botched drug sting May 7, 2008.
He describes a part of the operation. "Just as they begin to make the loop, the radio went out. Now, they can't hear her anymore, and nobody's watching her anymore. Pender doesn't tell anybody that until it's too late."
State lawmakers have to sign off on any damages more than $200 dollars.
A representative from the House and Senate listened to evidence Monday so they can issue a report to each chamber.
Lawmarkers still have the final say and can either accept or reject their recommendations.
Block had to prove police were negligent.
Steve Carter, an attorney for the City of Tallahassee, says, "What happened that day with all the decisions that were made were reasonable and met the industry standard, that they followed what people are doing throughout the country."
Attorney Block says he's optimistic the legislature will pass the claims bill. He says if it doesn't he's going to try again next year.
The settlement does not require any state funds. It would be paid by the City's insurace.
Block says he expects the bill to be taken up in the Senate first. He says typically, claims bills come up towards the end of session.
UPDATED February 13, 2012 by Julie Montanaro
The family of slain Tallahassee Police informant Rachel Hoffman is still awaiting legislative approval of a $2.6 million settlement.
A hearing is underway in Tallahassee right now before administrative law judge John Van Laningham.
A special master will evaluate the evidence and make a recommendation.
This settlement will be covered by the City of Tallahassee's insurance and does not require any state money, but Florida law requires the legislature to sign off on any settlements over $200,000.
UPDATED January 9, 2012 by Julie Montanaro
The City of Tallahassee and the family of slain police informant Rachel Hoffman reached a settlement on the eve of trial. Now approval of that $2.6 million dollar settlement is in the hands of the Florida legislature.
The jury was seated after three days of inquiry. Within in an hour, its services were no longer needed. The City of Tallahassee and the parents of Rachel Hoffman reached a settlement of $2.6 million. It's the biggest settlement in city history.
"The damages in this case were for the pain and suffering of Irv Hoffman and Marjorie Weiss for the loss of their child," said family attorney Lance Block on Friday.
Florida law caps damages at $200,000 and requires state lawmakers to sign off on the rest.
"If the parties agree as we have in this case, you would hope you could get that claims bill passed in the first session, if not, the second," said Tallahassee City Attorney Jim English on Friday.
Florida Senator Mike Fasano of New Port Richey has already filed a claims bill for this session, but so far, there's no house sponsor.
"The representatives of the Hoffman family are working diligently to find a way possibly through committee to introduce it in the house before it's too late," Fasano said.
The settlement comes nearly four years after Rachel Hoffman was shot and killed in a drug sting. Her family sued claiming officers who lost track of the rookie informant were liable in her death.
Now the same senator who sponosred Rachel's Law in 2009 to try to better protect informants will try to shepherd the $2.6 million dollar settlement for her family.
The city's insurance will pay for it all, but lawmakers still have to give it a thumbs up.
"Most claims bills are easier to pass if it has no fiscal impact on the state," Fasano said.
The Hoffman family attorney says he is confident there will be a house bill and approval this year. "Where there's a will, there's a way in the Florida legislature," Block said.
We'll keep you posted.
Updated January 6, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
After four years of uncertainty, the family of Rachel Hoffman finally has their answer.
"I'm grateful for this part of it to be over," said Irv Hoffman, father of Rachel Hoffman.
"This year has been the toughest year," said Margie Weiss, mother of Rachel Hoffman.
"With all the questioning it's just made Rachel's death more real to me, which I couldn't accept for the first two years."
The countdown to trial was near. After a rigorous jury selection campaign, the only thing stopping Hoffman versus the city of Tallahassee was time.
But, Friday night, the Tallahassee city commission officially put this case to rest.
Block, Hoffman Family Attorney, AT: 33
"This is what my clients wanted to do. They want to keep moving through their grief and this gives them an opportunity to do that," said Lance Block, Attorney for the Hoffman family.
"As difficult as it has been, it also I think has given us a lot of strength," Hoffman added.
The outcome of the special meeting of the city commission is a settlement for $2.6 million in the Rachel Hoffman civil case. The vote was 3 to 2.
City attorney, Jim English, is happy with the outcome.
"We're glad to have majority support and we'll hopefully execute the documents tonight and move along," English said.
The city says it will pay Hoffman's parents $200,000 within the next few weeks and the rest must be approved by the Florida legislature as a claims bill.
"The city manager and police chief said early on we wanted to be held accountable," English said.
Rachel Hoffman was acting as a police informant back in 2008 when she was shot execution style during a drug buy.
She was sent by herself with about $13,000 in cash to buy drugs and a handgun from two men.
"She's always in our hearts and we'll just always keep her memories alive by contributing and making this world a safer and better place in her name," said Weiss.
The city attorney says that as far as three years back they have put policies in place to try and prevent something like this from ever happening again.
Joint Statement from the City of Tallahassee and the Family of Rachel Hoffman
January 6, 2012
The City of Tallahassee and the parents of Rachel Hoffman - Irv Hoffman and Margie Weiss - tonight agreed to a settlement in the amount of $2.6 million regarding Rachel's death while serving as a confidential informant for the Tallahassee Police Department in May 2008. The settlement was voted on in a special meeting of the Tallahassee City Commission, following a 5:30 p.m. Executive Session at City Hall.
Rachel Hoffman was murdered by Andrea Green and Deneilo Bradshaw, who are both serving life sentences for her death.
"In reaching this settlement, the City wishes to express our deepest sorrow for the loss of Rachel Hoffman," said City Attorney Jim English. "We once again want to offer our most sincere condolences to her parents, Margie Weiss and Irv Hoffman. Each of us knows that no amount of money can soften the grief and pain that comes from losing a child and our sympathies will forever be with them."
"We must always be accountable for our conduct and we acknowledge that in this case, mistakes were made, and the life of a young woman was tragically lost," English added.
The terms of the settlement include a payment of $2.6 million to the parents of Rachel Hoffman. Two hundred thousand dollars will immediately be paid by the City and the City agrees to actively support the family in seeking legislative approval of a claims bill for the remaining $2.4 million by the 2012 Legislature.
"We stand by and have the highest regard for the men and women of the Tallahassee Police Department who put their lives on the line for us every day," said City Manager Anita Favors Thompson. "Within TPD, procedural changes have been implemented to help ensure something like this never happens again. We have steadfastly vowed to live up to our obligations both to Rachel's family as well as the taxpayers of this community. Today's settlement marks an equitable agreement by all parties in this matter with an eye towards moving forward."
PDF of settlement attached
January 6, 2012 6:42
Jury selection had been completed in the Hoffman vs. City of Tallahassee civil trial, however, a special meeting of the Tallahassee City Commission decides to settle for $2.6 million in Rachel Hoffman civil case.
City approves motion for settlement 3-2
Andrew Gillum and Mark Mustian were the commissioners to dissent.
The city says it will Hoffman's parents $200,000 within the next few weeks and the rest must be approved by the Florida legislature as a claims bill.
Irv Hoffman, Rachel's father, says he is relieved this is over and can try to move on with his life. Irv says he is thankful for the conviction of Deneilo Bradshaw and Andrea Green and for Rachel's Law which sets standards for police informants.
Hoffman's family attorney Lance Block says the $2.6 million award settlement is far less than what would have been returned from a jury; however, this is what his client wanted and this is the right deal at the right time.
City attorney Jim English says the city has acknowledged its mistakes and its role in this tragedy and will be doing all it can to try to get the claims bill passed this legislative session.
City settles informant death suit for $2.6 million
Tallahassee, FL (AP) - Tallahassee city commissioners have approved a $2.6 million settlement in the wrongful-death suit of a police informant who was fatally shot during a drug sting.
The parents of 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman filed suit after her 2008 death, seeking money damages from the city of Tallahassee. Commissioners decided to settle Friday, with the trial scheduled to begin Monday.
Hoffman's parents claim city police were negligent in setting up the Florida State graduate as an undercover informant after she was caught with marijuana and pills she didn't have a prescription for. She was shot five times after police lost track of her during a purported drug deal in a rural area north of Tallahassee. Her body was found 36 hours later in a roadside ditch in Taylor County, roughly 50 miles away.
January 6, 2012 6:09pm
New developments in the civil case involving the death of a Tallahassee police informant.
A jury has now been seated for trial, but this case may not make it that far.
That closed door meeting started a little after 5:30.
Our cameras are waiting outside that 4th floor conference room.
Inside, the mayor, city commissioners, city attorneys, the city manager and police chief.
We understand they are discussing a possible settlement in the Hoffman case. We're standing by for more.
Just minutes before that meeting started attorneys seated a jury in the civil suit. Eight women and one man including a UPS driver, an educator and an engineer. Testimony in the case is slated to begin on Monday and last an entire month.
The question tonight, will the city and the Hoffmans makea last minute settlement here tonight? Or will the wrongful death suit go to trial as planned.
January 6, 2012 5:43pm
A closed door executive meeting has begun to discuss litigation in the pending Rachel Hoffman civil case.
The meeting has been closed to the public, and is expected to last about 60 minutes.
We will bring the latest from this executive meeting as it becomes available.
January 6, 2012 5:24pm
Jury selection has been completed in the Hoffman vs. City of Tallahassee civil trial.
The jury has just been seated.
Jan 6 2:45pm
Defense attorney Lance Block told the jury pool that "the murderers aren't on trial here." He told potential jurors that Deneilo Bradshaw and Andrea Green are serving life sentences for Rachel Hoffman's murder. "This is not about their conduct, it's about the city's," he said.
He asked the potential jurors if they had any trouble with big jury awards. "No amount of money is going to bring that person back," one replied.
Block also admitted that Rachel Hoffman used marijuana, sold marijuana and "engaged" in other drugs. He asked the prospective jurors if any of them would hold that against Hoffman's parents. No one raised their hand.
City attorney Jesse Suber is now getting a chance to ask questions.
Jan 6 1:15pm
Special Meeting and Executive Session of City Commission
A special meeting of the Tallahassee City Commission will take place today, January 6, at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in conference room 4-B on the fourth floor of City Hall.
The meeting is required to begin as a public meeting, to be followed by an attorney-client executive session which is closed to the public and the media pursuant to Section 286.011(8) of the Florida Statutes. The purpose of the attorney-client executive session and the only agenda item is to discuss litigation in the pending Rachel Hoffman civil case.
The entire attorney-client executive session will be recorded by a certified court reporter. The transcript will be made part of the public record upon conclusion of the litigation.
The individuals scheduled to attend the attorney-client executive session are Mayor John Marks, Commissioner Mark Mustian, Commissioner Gil Ziffer, City Manager Anita Favors Thompson, City Attorney Jim English, Deputy City Attorney Lewis Shelley, Steve Carter, special litigation counsel to the City of Tallahassee, and a court reporter. (Commissioners Andrew Gillum and Nancy Miller are out of town but will take part in the meeting by telephone.) The attorney-client executive session will last approximately 60 minutes.
At the conclusion of the attorney-client executive session, the meeting will be re-opened to the public to announce the end of the attorney-client executive session, followed by the end of the public meeting. The meeting does not include an opportunity for public input.
Any person who wishes to attend the public portion of the meeting and who requires special accommodation due to disability or physical impairment should contact (850) 891-8130.
Jan 6 1:15pm
Jury selection has resumed in courtroom 3G. Attorneys for Rachel Hoffman's family are asking potential jurors about life experiences that may impact their decision making in this case.
Defense attorney Lance Block asked potential jurors if any of them was the parent of an only child. Several said yes. One woman described her daughter as her best friend and the most important person in her life. Rachel Hoffman was an only child.
Block also asked potential jurors if any of them had experienced the loss of a child. Several fought back tears as they shared their experiences about the loss of family or friends. None of the prospective jurors had lost a child themselves.
Block is now asking prospective jurors if they've ever had a job in which they were responsible for someone's safety.
Friday, January 6 Noon by Julie Montanaro
A jury will be chosen today in the wrongful death suit filed by the family of a slain Tallahassee police informant. The parents of Rachel Hoffman are suing the city of Tallahassee for what turned out to be a deadly drug sting.
This is the 3rd day of jury selection in Hoffman vs City of Tallahassee. and the clock is ticking as testimony is expected to start Monday.
There are 21 people in the jury box in Courtroom 3G. It is likely that most of the final 6 will come from this pool. Among them? A UPS driver, a used furniture salesman, an insurance office manager, a state employee, and a retired military man. Attorneys are asking some painful questions now. They ask if any of the potential jurors have experienced the loss of a child, several of them were brought to tears as they described their experiences. Attorneys also asked how many potential jurors had an only child. One woman described her daughter as her world.
Attorneys are working to seat a jury by this afternoon. We'll let you know when they've decided on the final 6.
Friday, January 6 10am by Julie Montanaro
The judge is now reading the names of nearly 200 witnesses.
Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones and Officer Ryan Pender were the first names on the list. Pender was the officer who recruited Hoffman and coordinated the buy bust.
The men convicted of Rachel Hoffman's murder - Deneilo Bradshaw and Andre Green - are on the witness list as well.
The list includes more than three dozen officers with TPD, as well as DEA agents, and deputies from Taylor and Pinellas Counties.
City Manager Anita Favors Thompson, Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell, former state attorney now circuit judge Jackie Fulford and state senator John Fasano are also listed as potential witnesses. So is former FSU quarterback Wyatt Sexton.
There are now 21 potential jurors in the jury box in courtroom 3G.
Among them are a UPS driver, a FedEx driver, an insurance office manager, a used furniture salesman, a retired bank employee and a state employee with the DOE.
Friday, January 6 9:20am by Julie Montanaro
Jury selection is in its final day in the Hoffman vs. City of Tallahassee civil trial.
The parents of slain police informant Rachel Hoffman are seeking unspecified damages. They contend Tallahassee police officers were negligent in her death.
Hoffman was killed during a botched drug sting in May 2008.
UPDATED 1.5.2011 by Julie Montanaro
The jury pool has been whittled down to 58 as the City of Tallahassee and the family of Rachel Hoffman prepare to face off in court.
Attorneys hope to select the final six in the morning.
Prospective jurors filled courtroom 3G for a second day.
"Can I get each of you to raise your right hand?" Circuit Judge James Shelfer asked the latest batch of prospective jurors.
The parents of Rachel Hoffman are suing the City of Tallahassee for unspecified damages in the death of their only child. She was murdered while working as a confidential informant for Tallahassee Police back in May 2008.
"Ms. Hoffman was to purchase drugs and a gun from Andre Green and Deneilo Bradshaw. Rachel Hoffman was murdered during the course of that operation," Shelfer told the prospective jurors.
The judge shared only the most basic details of this highly publicized case. Perhaps the most startling? It was less than three weeks from the day Hoffman started working as a CI to the day she died.
Hoffman's parents say officers were negligent in her death. The city says Hoffman herself is to blame.
Attorneys are trying to find six jurors and three alternates to weigh evidence in the month long trial. Most of those sent home Thursday were sent home because a seat on the jury would mean they couldn't earn enough to pay the bills.
"It's slated to last until February 3rd," the judge told the prospective jurors.
Those who are chosen won't be privy to everything. The judge has already ruled that they won't know about a critical internal affairs report, the subsequent discipline of five officers, or a grand jury presentment that found TPD negligent in Hoffman's death.
We will be in court in the morning and let you know when a jury is seated.
January 5, 2012 1:05pm
The jury pool has now been narrowed down to 58 people.
Attorneys intend to select six jurors and three alternates tomorrow.
Later this afternoon, the judge will hear some final motions.
January 5, 2012 Noon -
It is day two of jury selection in a civil suit pitting the family of a slain police informant against the City of Tallahassee. Rachel Hoffman's family is suing for negligence, but they have not yet specified the dollar amount they're seeking in damages.
Things are moving much more quickly on day two of jury selection.
26 prospective jurors have been questioned already this morning. Half of them have been sent home. Most have been sent home for health reasons or economic hardships. A city employee and the husband of a police dispatcher were promptly excused. Another juror who was sent home said he called "a spade a spade ... police used an amateur and didn't monitor it close enough." Another prospective juror who was asked to come back said she empathizes with both sides and that she imagines this is pretty traumatic for both.
Prospective jurors who have made the cut will be back on Friday. The judge hopes to choose a jury tomorrow morning.
January 5, 2012 8:45am
Jury selection is now in its second day as attorneys try to find six jurors and three alternates to weigh the evidence in Hoffman vs. City of Tallahassee.
Wednesday attorneys interviewed 54 potential jurors and asked 34 to come back Friday for further questioning.
Another 50 prospective jurors will be questioned today and those not excused will return Friday as well.
The family of slain police informant Rachel Hoffman is suing the city for unspecified damages for her death during a drug sting in May 2008.
UPDATED 1-4-2011 11:43pm by Angelica Alvarez
In May 2008, 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman was killed in a botched drug sting with Tallahassee police. This story made local and national headlines. Now with the upcoming civil trial, some residents in Tallahassee aren't sure a jury can remain objective, given what the public already knows about the case.
Hoffman was serving as an informant for TPD in a deal at Forest Meadows. There, she was supposed to meet Deneilo Bradshaw and Andrea Green. That's when the plan went wrong. Police lost contact with her and later found her murdered.
Bradshaw and Green are behind bars, but now the Hoffman family wants the City of Tallahassee to pay. They say police were negligent, the city says Hoffman was negligent one.
Resident in Tallahassee remember the case well and have mixed opinions about the jury pool.
Some believe it could be a fair trial, but others say the case and the story has gotten so much publicity that it would be hard for anyone in the area to remain objective.
Karen Heath is a Tallahassee resident who remembers the case and she sympathizes with the family, "I think it will be terribly traumatic for the parents to have to go through this all over again, but I understand the civil lawsuit and the necessity of it."
In the end, attorneys will have to find six objective jurors to decide if police were in fact negligent and if the city does in fact owe the family financial compensation in the death of Rachel Hoffman.
They hope to wrap up jury selection this week, and the trial is scheduled to begin Monday.
UPDATED 1.4.2011 6:20pm by Julie Montanaro
Attorneys have wrapped up the first day of jury selection.
34 jurors have been asked to return to court Friday for further questioning.
Another 50 prospective jurors are scheduled to report tomorrow morning.
[UPDATE] 1-4 12:50pm
Attorneys have taken a break and will resume questioning potential jurors at 1:30.
Of the 30 people questioned so far, 22 people have been asked to return Friday for further questioning.
Testimony is expected to begin on Monday.
[UPDATE] 1-4 Noon
The family of slain police informant Rachel Hoffman and the city of Tallahassee are now squaring off in civil court.
The 54 prospective jurors reported to 3G this morning. Attorneys are trying to find just six jurors and three alternates to weigh the evidence in Hoffman versus Tallahassee.
Police informant Rachel Hoffman was killed in a botched drug sting in May 2008.
Her family is suing the city of Tally for negligence in her death. The city contends it was Hoffman who was negligent that day. Jurors are being questioned one by one behind closed doors. We sat in and listened. All of the prospective jurors except for one had heard about the case from the media. Most said they could set aside what they had heard and focus on the evidence, but one woman said there was no way she could do that. She even expressed her condolences to Hoffman's mother out the door.
Of the first dozen jurors questioned, nine were asked to come back on Friday for further questioning.
[UPDATE] 1-4 10:20am
Potential jurors are being questioned behind closed doors.
Attorneys are trying to find out if they would be able to serve for a month without undue hardship.
They are also questioning potential jurors about what they have heard about the case on the news or read about it in the paper.
The first eight people questioned had all seen media reports about Hoffman's murder.
One woman said she is under the impression that "somebody dropped the ball" and was leaning toward the city being at fault. The woman was asked to return for further questioning on Friday.
The judge says he will not excuse anyone just because they had seen media reports, because in his opinion "everybody" has heard about this case.
Another man said he had difficulty with the "reasonableness" of an operation that could and did lead to the death of a confidential informant. He said he would try to set aside those feelings and base his decision on the evidence in the case. He was also asked to return on Friday for further questioning.
A woman said she had seen media coverage of the Hoffman case for years, but said "there are two sides to every story" and the truth is usually somewhere "in the middle." She was asked to return on Friday.
One woman said as the mother of two daughters she "empathizes with the parents" and would not be able to set those feelings aside. As she left the room she paused and told Rachel Hoffman's mother "So sorry for your loss." She was excused from jury service.
Attorneys are also discussing whether any current city employees or retired city employees would be allowed to serve as jurors in the case or if they should be stricken for cause.
[UPDATE] 1-4 8:59am
Jury selection is now underway in Hoffman vs. City of Tallahassee. There are 54 potential jurors in courtroom 3G. The judge intends to question each of the potential jurors behind closed doors.
The family of slain police informant Rachel Hoffman is suing the police department for negligence in her death. The city contends it was Hoffman who was negligent.
Eyewitness News has a reporter in court. Stay with WCTV for details.
[UPDATE] 1-4 8:15am
Rachel Hoffman was acting as a police informant back in 2008 when she was shot execution style during a drug buy. She had been sent by herself with about $13,000 in cash to buy drugs and a handgun from two men.
Andrea Green and Deneilo Bradshaw are serving life sentences for Hoffman's death. Her family is suing TPD and the city, claiming the officers coordinating and supervising the deal were negligent.
100 potential jurors will report to the courthouse over the next two days. Attorneys are trying to find six jurors and two or three alternates to weigh the evidence in this case.
For civil court, in most cases, it comes down to two basic questions: Was anyone negligent? And what damages were caused as a result of that negligence?
We'll have a reporter in the courtroom covering this trial so stay tuned to Eyewitness News.
UPDATED 1.3.2012 by Julie Montanaro
The family of a slain police informant and the City of Tallahassee are about to face off in court.
Rachel Hoffman was killed in a botched drug sting in 2008 and tomorrow attorneys will try to find a jury to decide if Tallahassee Police are to blame for her death.
Andre Green and Deneilo Bradshaw are both serving life sentences for the May 2008 murder of police informant Rachel Hoffman.
Her parents are now headed back to the same courtroom to sue the Tallahassee Police Department for negligence in her death.
"We are looking forward to holding the Tallahassee Police Department accountable for setting this nightmare into action," Hoffman's mother Margie Weiss said after Bradshaw's trial in December 2009.
The City of Tallahassee changed 11 policies in the wake of Hoffman's death, including policies which deal with confidential informants, buy busts and flash money. Four of its officers were disciplined. Officer Ryan Pender was fired.
"In this case we are talking about good police officers who made
mistakes, but we have to be held accountable," City Manager Anita Favors said when the city released TPD's internal affairs report in September 2008.
Pender told an arbitrator Hoffman did not follow orders that night and went to meet Green and Bradshaw on a lonely dirt road miles from the agreed upon spot at Forest Meadows.
The Hoffman family attorney balked when Pender was rehired in 2010 in the wake of an arbitrator's decision.
"We're right back to where we started," Lance Block said in April 2010, "Ryan Pender is back at work. All the other officers involved are working. The city is denying any wrongdoing and placing all the blame on Rachel Hoffman."
Soon it will be up to a jury to decide if the police department is liable in Hoffman's death and if it is, how much it should pay for it.
Jury selection in the civil trial begins tomorrow morning.
100 jurors have been summoned to the courthouse over the next two days.
Attorneys will choose six jurors and two or three alternates for what is expected to be a month-long trial.
Four years after a 23-year-old Tallahassee police informant was killed in a botch drug raid, the civil suit may finally be heading to trial.
Jury selection for the Rachel Hoffman wrongful death suit against the city of Tallahassee is slated to start this Wednesday at the Leon County Courthouse.
Hoffman was acting as a police informant back in 2008 when shot execution style during a drug buy. She had been sent by herself with about $13,000 in cash to try and buy drugs and a handgun from two suspects.