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metro police go undercover in addiction treatment group

Rosey

TRIBE Member
from the toronto star.

PETERBOROUGH — Brenda Waudby badly needed a friend, and the woman with the blonde, scraggly hair who sat next to her at her Narcotics Anonymous meeting seemed to fill the bill.

Waudby was trying to cope with the sudden death of her 21-month-old daughter, Jenna, who died just hours after Waudby dropped her off at a babysitter.

She was also fighting to shake a cocaine addiction, and she and her common-law husband were breaking up.

So Waudby desperately needed someone to confide in during the spring of 1997, and the woman who introduced herself at the meeting as Ramona Speigel seemed to need her, too.

"I felt sorry for her," Waudby recalled. "She was an addict. She was in the same boat as everybody else. She was genuine. She was a nice woman."

Waudby grew to value her as a trusted friend, close enough to bring to her mother's home and baby Jenna's grave.

It was not until five months later that Waudby discovered that her friend, who had attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings off and on during that time, wasn't Ramona Speigel at all.

She was really Maja Schlegel, a Toronto undercover officer sent to Narcotics Anonymous to gather information on her regarding Jenna's death.

Waudby found herself staring at Schlegel in disbelief as she was charged with second-degree murder.

She also found herself wondering how police could be allowed to infiltrate a closed-doors therapy group that she thought was confidential, and to confiscate counselling records.

"I just shook my head," Waudby recalled.

"She apologized to me. She said she was sorry that she had to do it."

A crown attorney threw out the charge against Waudby as unfounded before it reached trial, after reviewing medical reports indicating she was not with her daughter at the time the fatal injuries were inflicted.

Peterborough police Chief Terry McLaren declined to comment, saying the case is still under investigation.

Requests for interviews with Toronto police Chief Julian Fantino and Schlegel were referred to Staff Inspector Bruce Smollet, who said the undercover operation at Narcotics Anonymous would have been approved by Peterborough police, who headed the case.

Smollet said Toronto police have no written policy against undercover operations in counselling groups, and would not comment on whether they have infiltrated other Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

"You've got to be really careful on this one," Smollet said.

"Maja ... didn't go into these groups looking into the groups themselves. She was in there as an undercover officer with the subject, so that the actual content of the group was not a concern of hers."

This winter, five years after Jenna's death, there was finally a break in the case.

The new evidence had nothing to do with Waudby and her counselling files.

It was a single dark, curly strand of hair or fibre — which was never tested or used as evidence — that fell into police hands when they removed it from the office of Toronto pathologist Dr. Charles Smith last December.

Yesterday, after the strand was examined at the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto, the case was reviewed in Peterborough by a group that included a group that included McLaren, Ontario deputy chief coroner Dr. James Cairns, centre director Dr. Ray Prime, and prosecutor Brian Gilkinson.

Cairns declined to comment on the results of forensic testing on the strand, citing the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, the undercover operation at Narcotics Anonymous — dubbed Project Jenna by investigators — has driven at least three recovering drug addicts besides Waudby out of the counselling group, according to the woman who was her NA sponsor.

"I was shocked, angry and disillusioned," said Waudby's sponsor, a professional woman and recovering drug addict.

"It's (police infiltrating meetings) never been an issue before, and I've never heard of it happening."

Narcotics Anonymous is modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous.

A spokesperson for Alcoholics Anonymous North America said he has never heard of undercover police officers planted in an AA meeting.

The Narcotics Anonymous Web page said the group uses "confidential self-disclosure" to help wean addicts from drugs.

"NA has only one mission: to provide an environment in which addicts can help one another stop using drugs and find a new way to live," it states.

Waudby said she was further shocked to read a newspaper report that the officer who posed as her friend for five months was honoured as the city's Police Officer of the Year for 1998, in a gala ceremony sponsored by the Toronto Board of Trade.

A police news release on the award stated:

"The officer maintained contact with the suspect every day, gaining her confidence, and a month later, the suspect confessed to the murder of her child."

After The Star questioned police about the operation, the Web site carrying the news release was altered this week to delete the text, "the suspect confessed to the murder of her child."


Smollet said the deletion was made because it would be "absolutely unfair" to Waudby to leave the impression that she had confessed to murdering her daughter.

Reports and transcripts of the undercover operation refer to Waudby repeatedly arguing that she was innocent and that she suspected the child's babysitter of the killing.

On Sept. 5, 1997 — the day Waudby received a copy of the coroner's report on Jenna's death — a police bugging device in the undercover officer's apartment recorded Waudby repeatedly stating she didn't beat her daughter.

Ironically, it also recorded Waudby saying that she thought she was going to be wrongly charged with murder.

Waudby: I have this funny feeling I'm going down for murder, eh.

Schlegel: What happened then?

Waudby: Wednesday morning?

Schlegel: Um hum.

Waudby: Got her up out of the crib. Cuddled up with her. Found that she was tired. Put her back to down and let her cry herself to sleep ...

Schlegel: (unintelligible) You didn't shake her?

Waudby: Nope.

On Sept. 7, 1997, Waudby was riding in the undercover officer's green Chevrolet Corsica, which had been bugged as well. Waudby complained that she thought people from her old drug-taking days were out to get her.

Waudby: (Expletive) man. I wish you were a cop. I wouldn't have any worries.

Schlegel: Sorry.

Waudby: Or are you one of them?

Schlegel: Can't do `er, sorry.

Waudby: (Laughing) Or are you one of the ...

(Talking at the same time — unintelligible.)

Schlegel: Fake I'm an addict (laughing). You never know.

Waudby: I don't know. (Person's name) works for them.

Schlegel: Well, there ya go.

Waudby: On drug squad nonetheless.

Schlegel: They may be able to hire me onto the drug squad.

Waudby: Hire you as an informant. You'd have to (unintelligible).

Schlegel: I don't think I'm into ratting, thank you.

Their final taped conversation was at 9:58 a.m. Sept. 17, 1997, when Schlegel called Waudby to tell her that Schlegel's sister had been critically injured in a car accident.

Schlegel sounded distressed, saying, "The best I can say is I'm going to call you when I get a chance, okay?"

The next day, Waudby was arrested for second-degree murder, and she saw the woman she believed was her friend at the Peterborough police station, as one of her arresting officers.

"I felt horrible." Waudby recalled. "I feel like the system violated me personally."

Waudby said she felt violated again Sept. 28, 1999, when police seized her psychiatric records from the Etobicoke office of Dr. Mark Ben-Aron.

The raid came three months after charges were dropped and focused on a psychiatric assessment that had been ordered by her lawyer before the charges were dropped.

Ben-Aron said in an interview that he protested to the officer who took the records that they were protected both by patient-doctor and lawyer-client privilege, since Ben-Aron had been retained by Waudby's lawyer.

"When police came in, I was distressed," Ben-Aron said.

"The issue was much greater than me. The issue here is in terms of the protection of the inherent rights of the individual."

The court order from a justice of the peace did not require the records to be sealed, but Ben-Aron sealed them anyway.

He said he can't help but worry about them.

"I worried that someone might unseal it and then reseal it," the psychiatrist said. "That's human nature."

Other counselling records from Waudby were seized on Feb. 7, 1997, from 4Cast, Four Counties Addiction Services Team Inc., where she had been getting one-on-one therapy at the same time she was attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Waudby said she's still receiving counselling but would never attend a group session again.

She said she even has trouble opening up in one-on-one sessions, noting she balked when her current therapist asked her to put her thoughts down on paper.

She said she only hopes that the tiny hair or fibre tested finally points police away from her and toward her daughter's real killer.

"They had tunnel vision, and it was me and me alone who they saw in the tunnel."
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fucking pigs! :mad:
 
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room
Interesting. Now could they attend in the hopes of catching drug dealers?

You know, you have an addiciton, you go to AA, some dude befreinds you and you both get down to the "who did you get yours from" discussion and so on, so forth.

I'm sure they wouldn't bother, but could they?
 

AdRiaN

TRIBE Member
Disgusting

Imagine how many criminals the police could catch if they went undercover as priests in the confession booth! :rolleyes:
 
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Subsonic Chronic

TRIBE Member
I think that sending undercovers to drug rehab centres is on par with putting cops in the confessionals at a church.

If anything, this will only deter addicts from participating in these programs and getting the help that they need. It removes people's trust in police even more.

Pete
 

416

TRIBE Member
Ya, that's really fucked up shit.

Especially considering she was in treatment for stimulant abuse, which makes you all paranoid to begin with. The woman is probably seriously messed up in the head now.

Coke addict,
Baby dies,
Friend turns out to be cop.

What lovely thoughts must be running loose in her head right now.
 

Rosey

TRIBE Member
what really irks me is that they charged her on a case so weak that the crown attorney threw it out because it couldn't be prosecuted! they did all that for nothing...and then lied about it for PR purposes?
 

Jazz

TRIBE Member
And the police wonder why a high percentage of the population view them in a negative light... Fuck, the police are basically running around like the gestapo, with nobody to answer to... makes me sick....

:mad: :mad: :mad:
 
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mingster

TRIBE Member
I love how this disencourages the very things that people are encouraged to do, in the name of living a healthier life and being better to society.

NA can be the only solace that addicts have, the only place where they feel understood, and where things can make sense for one hour. She must feel so betrayed, and confused.

I understand the need to catch a killer, but some things should be kept sacred. Drug addicts are people too and their right to privacy and respect should be observed and nurtured.

Ming.
 

LoopeD

TRIBE Member
And they wonder why people call them pigs...............


Seriously, though, treatment for hard drug adiction is supposed to be encouraged - some addicts will look at this now and say ah, what the hell, I'll try to battle this out on my own - don't want to go anywhere where there's a chance cops will be.

Many people are distrustful of the police, especially drug addicts.............and me!




:)d
 
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Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
a charter challenge on this case would have been interesting.

if the police had arrested her for a narcotics-related offence, then i would expect the evidence to be tossed out - as it would CLEARLY undermine people's ability to speak freely about their drug habits in such a group.

HOWEVER, in this instance, the crime they were investigating was unrelated to her narcotics use. they were examining the death of her daughter. that's why i am not entirely sure that the police behaved inappropriately.

most of you are jumping to the conclusion that the police did something dispicable here because they deceived this lady and breached her trust but that is how ALL undercover sting operations play themselves out. (insert footage of donnie brasco betraying poor al pacino. ;))

would your opinions be different if the lady had been convicted of murdering her kid and this evidence had enabled the cops to bring her to justice?
 

Rosey

TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Klubmasta Will

would your opinions be different if the lady had been convicted of murdering her kid and this evidence had enabled the cops to bring her to justice?
no. if she was guilty they should have been able to show it through forensic evidence, it's a baby death and a well documented one. all this does is scare people out of rehab.
 

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Rosey
no. if she was guilty they should have been able to show it through forensic evidence, it's a baby death and a well documented one. all this does is scare people out of rehab.

you misunderstand my question, so i'll rephrase.

the issue here is whether the police should be allowed to do undercover investigations at drug rehab groups if they are investigating a crime that is unrelated to the target's drug use.

i think they should be able to do so. that is why i asked if people would have viewed the situation differently if the sting operation had resulted in valuable evidence that allowed them to catch and convict a murderer.
 

mingster

TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Klubmasta Will


the issue here is whether the police should be allowed to do undercover investigations at drug rehab groups if they are investigating a crime that is unrelated to the target's drug use.

Does the work involved and determination of a drug addict to quit equate bringing justice to a murderer? I don't know. If it undermines and destroys the trust required for addicts to get proper treatment, I guess the question is which of the two is the more necessary evil.

Not that rehab is such an admirable thing to excuse murder, but if an addict is looking for help, what a way to kick them when they are down. to sting them with the only place that can help them. I'm torn between a need for justice and an understanding of the torment and need for safety of a drug addict.

Ming.
 

Rosey

TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Klubmasta Will


you misunderstand my question, so i'll rephrase.

the issue here is whether the police should be allowed to do undercover investigations at drug rehab groups if they are investigating a crime that is unrelated to the target's drug use.
i don't think i misunderstood, i think i was just too specific, and i still say no.

the value of these groups will be completely undermined if people fear that the people they are opening up to may be pigs.
 
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Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Rosey
the value of these groups will be completely undermined if people fear that the people they are opening up to may be pigs.

the value of rehab groups would ONLY be undermined if the undercover cops were arresting people for drug offences.

think about it: you go to rehab to confess your drug addictions. you would STILL be able to do this without fear of getting arrested.

if the cops can get you to admit to murder because you mistakenly thought you had made a genuine friend, then that's tough shit. same as with any other undercover operation.
 

alexd

Administrator
Staff member
What do you bet they wouldn't investigate one of their own in a group like that?

What about info gleaned collaterally from other folks in the group that might have surfaced during the investigation? Those folks could be targeted for futher investigation by police on unrelated matters.

I think its shameful and disgusting that they would use tactics like this to undermine the therapy process for folks who are seeking help. Perhaps they should spend less money on Public Relations in order to conduct more adequate investigations OUTSIDE the sanctity of such groups.

Waiting for the cops who beat the guy to death outside 7 eleven to get their due (not holding my breath/.
 

LoopeD

TRIBE Member
Doesn't matter. If they want to go undercover, don't go where therapy is trying to take place.

Do you think a cop has the right to go undercover as a doctor, too? They sure could try, but it would be thrown out faster than you can say mistrial..........

Granted, the offense is serious, but where does it stop? Guarantee you, if a judge set the precedent, undercover cops would start popping up everywhere.




:)d
 

Klubmasta Will

TRIBE Member
the privacy provisions of the charter are only designed to protect you to the extent that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

if i attend a drug rehab meeting, then i should feel safe in knowing that i can freely admit my drug use without getting arrested or punished in any way.

it would NOT be reasonable, though, for me to think that i could attend those meetings and talk freely about murders that i had committed, etc. and still be protected.

as important as i think it is to limit the ability of the police to invade our private lives, in this instance, i don't see them doing anything wrong. they have to be able to conduct undercover investigations to catch the bad guys.
 
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