7-year term possible for drug lab chemist
BOSTON — Prosecutors asked that a chemist charged in a far-reaching scandal at a Massachusetts drug-testing lab serve five to seven years in state prison if she pleads guilty in a case that has jeopardized thousands of criminal convictions.
Annie Dookhan has caused “egregious damage” to the state’s criminal justice system, the attorney general’s office wrote in a sentencing memo filed in court on Thursday. A defense lawyer said he would seek a year in jail for his client.
Dookhan is charged with obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence while working at a former Department of Public Health drug lab. The lab was shut in August 2012 amid a state police investigation of its practices. Since then, at least 1,100 criminal cases have been dismissed or not prosecuted because of tainted evidence or other fallout.
In the sentencing memo, prosecutors from Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said Dookhan deliberately skipped vital steps in the drug-testing process and ensured that samples sent to the lab by police departments would test positive for drugs to “improve her productivity and burnish her reputation.”
“The gravity of the present case cannot be overstated,” Assistant Attorneys General John Verner and Anne Kaczmarek wrote. “The defendant’s actions not only affected the particular individuals named in the indictments, but also the entire criminal justice system in Massachusetts.”
The memo was filed before a so-called lobby conference on Friday in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. During the conference, prosecutors and Dookhan’s lawyer, Nicolas Gordon, are expected to meet with Judge Carol Ball to discuss sentencing recommendations if Dookhan were to plead guilty.
Gordon said he plans to recommend a one-year sentence, followed by any amount of probation and whatever conditions the judge imposes. Prosecutors said they would recommend five years of probation.