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Fast Times At Pinedale High

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Pinedale, Wyo., will not soon forget the name Craig Madsen. That was the alias used by Kevin Carter, a free-lance police informant who posed as a student at Pinedale High School as part of a 1992 state drug investigation.

Although he was 23 at the time, Carter's boyish looks made it easy for him to blend in with his teenage classmates--perhaps too easy. A Pinedale family has filed a civil suit against Carter, charging that while he was on assignment at the high school, he had sex with a 17-year-old female family member and supplied alcohol and drugs to students.

The story has gained considerable notoriety. The tabloid-style television show Hard Copy headlined its story about Carter "Sex and the Single Narc.'' But the case also has raised for school and law-enforcement officials the question of whether students should be the target of crime-fighting efforts that rely on deceit and subterfuge. A federal jury in Wyoming will soon wrestle with that question as it applies to Kevin Carter a k a Craig Madsen.

Before coming to Wyoming, Carter worked for various law-enforcement agencies as a narcotics investigator in several Utah schools. By all accounts, his work in that state was trouble-free. In one drug sweep there, he was directly responsible for 13 arrests.

Carter got into several scrapes in Wyoming, however. While working undercover in Lyman, he is alleged to have been with teenagers who stole beer from an American Legion hall and threw an oil drum off an interstate-highway bridge. He is also being sued by a 15-year-old Lyman girl whom he dated while on assignment there.

But the suit filed by the Pinedale family has had repercussions throughout the state. It names 17 defendants, including the state attorney general, the state Division of Criminal Investigation, the school district, and various school officials.

Carter's assignment at Pinedale High School was to check out reports that some of its nearly 200 students were buying LSD from a drug dealer in Denver. The suit charges that during the monthlong investigation, Carter turned his DCI-provided apartment into what became known as a "party house.'' Carter often provided alcohol and drugs to minors, the suit charges, and youths frequently used his apartment as a place to have sex.

During the undercover operation, Carter dated the 17-year-old girl whose family filed the lawsuit. At various times, the suit says, his supervisor allegedly encouraged him to photograph or videotape the girl, her 15-year-old sister, and other minors engaged in sexual activity. According to the suit, Carter also initiated sexual activity with the 17-year-old on numerous occasions and had sexual intercourse with her at least once. Carter and the other defendants named in the suit have denied the allegations. Pinedale school officials have said they agreed to enroll Carter, but they have denied they were responsible for his actions.

Robert Brodie, Carter's lawyer, says his client had to run with a fast crowd to keep his cover. "He was between a rock and a hard place,'' the lawyer asserts. "He could hardly be an A student and a goody-two-shoes and get in close with these kids.''

Regardless of the court's findings in the case, Wyoming state officials already have dissected the Pinedale operation and concluded that it was bungled at the outset. Two judges and a former FBI agent appointed by Gov. Mike Sullivan to investigate the matter largely assigned blame to Carter and his direct supervisor.

The investigators recommended that DCI agents sell drugs to juveniles only in exceptional cases. But they specifically declined to recommend banning undercover operations in high schools.

That bothers many school officials and classroom teachers. "In our eyes, when kids come to school, the school becomes the parent,'' says Jean Hayek, president of the Wyoming Education Association. "What parents would willingly entrap their child?''

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