Court asked to levy fines for misconduct in lab scandal

Sonja Farak
The Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Defense attorneys and civil libertarians in Massachusetts urged the state’s highest court on Tuesday to impose fines against the state attorney general’s office for the misconduct of two former prosecutors who tried to minimize the scope of a state drug lab scandal.

A judge found that two former assistant attorneys general withheld evidence about the scope of the misconduct of former chemist Sonja Farak, who authorities say was high almost every day she worked at the state drug lab for eight years. Farak pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing drugs from the state crime lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars.

Matthew Segal of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts told the Supreme Judicial Court that the prosecutors’ actions warrant sanctions to ensure it never happens again. He called it the “most significant record of harm as a result of prosecutorial misconduct this court has ever seen.”

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Bocian told the judges that fines aren’t justified and there are already measures in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again, MassLive.com reported .

The ACLU and the state’s public defender agency are also asking the court to order the dismissal of thousands of additional convictions potentially tainted by Farak. Prosecutors have already agreed to toss about 8,000 cases linked to Farak.

The ACLU and the Committee for Public Counsel Services say all cases involving drug samples tested at the Amherst lab during Sonja Farak’s eight-year tenure should be dismissed, even if they were tested by another chemist.

But the attorney general’s office and the local district attorneys say that’s not necessary.

Farak’s case is separate from another Massachusetts drug lab scandal that resulted in the dismissal some 21,000 convictions last year.

Those cases were tossed because of misconduct by Annie Dookhan, a chemist at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory in Boston, who was accused in 2012 of falsifying drug tests. She was later sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence.

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