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Autistic Teen Hounded for Pot by Undercover Cop Sues District

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Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 7:01 AM

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY CHRIS YARZAB / FLICKR
A Southern California autistic teen caught up in a high school drug string is suing the district that allegedly let it happen.

See also: Autistic Teen's Undercover Pot Bust Angers Community.

Jesse Snodgrass, now 18, was busted for Chaparral High School in December of last year after allegedly providing an undercover cop posing as a student some weed. However ...

... the suit says Snodgrass "was aggressively targeted, harassed, hounded, on campus, within the first few days of the new school year, by a new friend, a new peer, an undercover officer, to score him some marijuana."

The suit, obtained by the Weekly, was being filed in Riverside County Superior Court.

His parents have said that the officer, part of the Riverside County Special Investigations Task Force, sent Snodgrass more than 60 text messages in an effort to woo his friendship and get him to provide marijuana.

They say Snodgrass was aiming to please when he found a homeless guy who gave him a joint. Incredulously, they say, it wasn't enough for the cop, and the teen found him $20 worth, only to be arrested.

The suit says the cop was so obvious to the "nondisabled" kids on campus that they called him Deputy Dan. The suit describes Snodgrass as a ...

... new vulnerable, naive, socially deficient, autistic student who had no friends and who did not have the ability to appropriately process, assess or navigate through such a difficult school situation into which he was recklessly/negligently and/or intentionally placed by Defendants ...

The sting culminated in the teen's arrest in class on Dec. 11, the suit says. After he was put on probation for six months, the case was dismissed, it says.

click to enlarge ALEJANDRO D / FLICKR
  • alejandro d / Flickr

The suit, in essence, says the district should have known this special-needs teen was vulnerable and emotionally unstable before it allegedly let a cop target the student. It's asking for unspecified compensation for ...

... significant injuries and emotional distress in an amount to be determined at trial, including but not limited to, physical injuries, past and future medical expenses, severe and insurmountable anxiety and emotional distress, acute depression, loss of self-esteem, lack of trust of adults/peers, sleeplessness, self-injurious behavior, nightmares, fear of being arrested/incarcerated, fear of strangers and law enforcement and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Parents Catherine and Doug Snodgrass said in a statement, "Our son is permanently scarred from the abuse he suffered."

The group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition says that high school drug stings are a thing of the past in progressive school districts. L.A. Unified stopped the practice in 2005. Retired LAPD Deputy Chief Stephen Downing, a member of LEAP, says:

What we have witnessed here is the polar opposite of good policing and an example of how the drug war skews the priorities of law enforcement officers. There was no crime here until the police coerced a special needs student into committing one. They didn't lessen the amount of drugs available and they didn't provide help to any students who may have had a legitimate problem. Instead, they diminished the life prospects of everyone they came into contact with. As a parent, as a retired police officer, as a human being, this outrages me.

The Snodgrass family has set up a legal defense fund, here.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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