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Assembly OKs Limits on Teen Informants

July 08, 1998|ERIC BAILEY

Prodded by the murder of a Yorba Linda youth used as a police drug informant, the Assembly approved a measure Tuesday that would prohibit the use of snitches under the age of 15.

The measure by Assemblyman Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach) also would require approval by a parent and a judge before police could use any 15- to 17-year-old as an informant.

Baugh's measure, which the Assembly approved on a 64-1 vote and now goes to the Senate, originally sought to ban the use of any juvenile informant.

But the lawmaker eased off under pressure from law enforcement officials, who felt they needed some flexibility in the use of underage snitches in critical cases.

Baugh argues that the softened bill will still provide protection to nearly all teens. He contends that most judges will be reticent to sign off on a youth being used by police as an undercover informant, thus making it unlikely that even older teens would be used.

The bill was inspired by the torture and slaying of Chad MacDonald in March.

An attorney for the MacDonald family alleged the 17-year-old youth was killed because he was working as an informant for Brea police in exchange for the dismissal of a drug charge. Police say they had stopped using MacDonald as an informant weeks before the murder.

In early March, MacDonald went to a suspected drug house in Norwalk. His badly beaten body was later found in an alley in South Los Angeles. MacDonald's girlfriend was raped, shot and left for dead in the Angeles National Forest. She survived the attack. Three people have been charged with murder.

Baugh's measure is expected to have little opposition in the state Senate.

Most law enforcement groups now support it, and Senate Leader John Burton (D-San Francisco) appears to favor a ban on juvenile informants.

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