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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

University of Massachusetts Amherst is Being Sued

A New Jersey mother is suing the University of Massachusetts Amherst, after a confidential informant program run by the campus police violated her rights to know that her son was using illegal drugs. Francesca Sinacori’s son, Eric Sinacori, died in October 2013 of a heroin overdose. The mother is suing the school, along with a police officer under the pseudonym “John Doe,” and Jesse Carrillo, Sinacori’s alleged heroin dealer who sold him the drug that ended his life. Francesca is suing for a breach of contract as UMass Amherst, having failed to inform her that her son was a heroin addict; to which she states she could have gotten help for him, had she known.

The suit was filed in the Hampshire Superior Court. Sinacori is being represented by Northampton attorneys David Hoose and Luke Ryan. She is seeking $5 million in a “breach of contract claim against UMass Amherst, and $1 million from Jesse Carrillo for wrongful death.” Carrillo is being sued because of his “willful, wanton for reckless conduct.”

Sinacori was found in his off-campus apartment on Oct. 5, 2013 by his father and step-mother, who were visiting for parents’ weekend. Sinacori was a “confidential informant” for the campus police at the time, after the police agreed not to press drug charges and inform his parents if he cooperated with them. It was not reported to the UMass Amherst’s administration, and was the reason why his parents were not informed of their son’s drug problems. Under the confidential informant program, police officers with the UMass Amherst Police Department were authorized to make confidential arrangements with alleged drug offenders. The policy was adopted in 2009, amended in 2011, and was effective until September 2014.

The 2011 policy authorized police to use “addicts” as informants, but it required them to be carefully supervised and controlled. Officers were also required to take precautionary steps that would ensure the safety and protection of all informants. However, in this case, the police did not receive any training in identifying addicts as the lawsuit states. Police also made no effort to help Sinacori, who admitted to a friend months before his death that he was going to tell his parents about his addiction.

It was also revealed that Eric was caught selling drugs, and was in possession of hypodermic needles back in 2012. The campus police agreed not to press charges, or tell his parents, if he worked undercover to help them arrest another dealer.

According to Francesca Sinacori, it’s reasonable to believe that any parent who reads the UMass Student Code of Conduct in 2012-13 to have the expectation that any student who was in violation of the code would earn a disciplinary record, if the student in question were to be found with needles, or selling drugs. Parents of students who violated this code were usually notified. However, in this case, they were not.

An incident was described as a scenario when Eric went undercover. He was dressed with a wire and cash provided by the campus police. He was ordered to go to a dorm to buy LSD from a dealer who had a criminal record. Immediately after the transaction, the dealer was arrested and suspended from UMass Amherst. As a result of this incidence, others realized that Eric Sinacori was a police informant.
Sinacori was described as an honor student and high school hockey star. He was only twenty-years-old at the time of his death and the recipient of the UMass Chancellor’s Scholarship.