, Gloucester, MA

December 26, 2012

State weighing costs in drug lab debacle

From Wire and Staff Reports
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — BOSTON — As “rogue chemist” Annie Dookhan faces felony charges in the same court system where she allegedly corrupted evidence in drug trials, another branch of the state’s government is weighing what it will cost to sort through the mess she made in the state’s criminal justice system.

After her grand jury indictment last week, Dookhan pleaded not guilty to 15 charges, including eight counts of tampering with evidence, five counts of obstruction of justice, one count of perjury and one count of falsifying a resume.

A statewide grand jury charged Dookhan with corrupting the justice system in specific cases. The defendants listed in the indictments against Dookhan are Larry Blue, Carlos Pineda, Brad Flowers, Jeffrey Banks, and Paul Reeves, and the dates of her alleged crimes range from May 18, 2009 — when Dookhan allegedly obstructed justice in a trial of Pineda — to July 1, 2011 – when Dookhan alleged obstructed justice in a criminal case against Banks.

During the arraignment assistant attorney general Anne Kaczmarek clarified Dookhan’s alleged crime, which occurred during her employment at the Hinton criminal drug lab — since shuttered — in Jamaica Plain.

“Ms. Dookhan was not tampering with the actual drug sample. She was tampering with the testing vials,” Kaczmarek told the court. “She was doing that, we believe, to make her original confirmation of the drugs match what the (mass spectrometer) objective test came back to.”

Because her actions allegedly led to false convictions in drug cases and threw thousands of convictions into question, Dookhan has drawn the ire of defense attorneys, prosecutors and others around the state.

A team of attorneys is sorting through the paper trail of Dookhan’s work, which lasted from 2003 until last March when she resigned under scrutiny. Meanwhile, government officials from district attorneys, to public defenders, and municipal officials have requested millions of dollars to handle the additional caseload and monitor newly released defendants.

The office of Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett alone has been notified Dookhan’s handiwork touched more than 8,000 samples tied to county cases. And some of those are clearly tied to Gloucester and cases out of the Gloucester District Court.

One of the cases already raised on appeal tied to Dookhan’s sample contamination last month involve a Gloucester man, Matthew Reis, who pleaded guilty to dealing heroin in Gloucester and Beverly back in 2009.

Dookhan was the confirmatory chemist in the case, and public defender Alice Jayne asked for a stay, even though Reis is nearly up for parole on his three-to-five-year sentence.

Prosecutor Jessica Strasnick argued that Reis confessed to having heroin and got what she called a “huge break” when he was offered a plea agreement. But Jayne suggests Reis might not have pleaded guilty, and instead would have sought a trial. He also would have sought to have his confession suppressed, she said, but Judge David Lowy denied the stay request. at least soeof peFiE

The monitoring of Dookhan last week was eased up under an order from Clerk Magistrate Gary Wilson. At a request from her attorney Nicholas Gordon, Dookhan’s nightly curfew was pushed back from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Dookhan’s movements are also tracked via a GPS system. Her $10,000 cash bail was transferred from Boston Municipal Court where she had been previously arraigned.

“She’s not a flight risk. It’s certainly putting a damper on her ability to have any kind of social life, interact with her neighbors, her family and friends,” Gordon said. “She has absolutely no prior record.”

The case will be in court again on Feb. 13 for a pre-trial hearing. Dookhan also faces 12 additional charges of obstruction of justice in five other counties. Dookhan faces six such charges in Plymouth, three in Middlesex, two in Norfolk and one each in Essex and Bristol counties.

Gov. Deval Patrick has filed a $30 million supplemental budget to be used for costs associated with the Hinton lab debacle. The obstruction of justice charges carry an up-to 10-year prison sentence.