Drug cases dismissed after probe into police evidence thefts

Massachusetts has had a string of scandals involving tainted evidence

BOSTON (AP) — 6 drug cases have been dismissed this week and hundreds more are being reviewed following an investigation into drugs, money and guns missing from a Massachusetts police department’s evidence room.

Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said Wednesday that prosecutors in his office are reviewing between 200 and 400 criminal drug cases as a result of an audit to determine the scope of problems related to the Braintree police evidence room. A report is expected to be released this week on the audit ordered by Braintree Police Chief Russell Jenkins.

Democratic Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, who is expected to release the report, did not immediately return a call requesting comment Wednesday.

Morrissey said he was briefed on the audit by Sullivan.

“Basically, we learned that there is an issue of locating drugs — there are drug cases where evidence was tampered with or missing — and there is money that is either unaccounted for or missing,” Morrissey said Wednesday. He said the audit also determined “a number of guns were unaccounted for.”

Morrissey said his office will review cases to determine if there is a possibility of evidence being lost or tampered with, and if so, will notify defense attorneys.

“We cannot and we will not use tampered evidence,” he said.

Massachusetts has had a string of scandals involving tainted evidence. Thousands of drug cases were dismissed following the discovery in 2011 that former state chemist Annie Dookhan had tampered with drug samples and falsified test results. Dookhan was sentenced in November 2013 to three to five years in prison. She was paroled earlier this year.

Another former state chemist, Sonja Farak, pleaded guilty for tampering with evidence and other charges in 2014. Investigators said she was high almost every day during the eight years she worked at a drug lab in Amherst. Prosecutors have said thousands of cases were potentially affected by Farak’s misconduct.

Farak pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and related charges in 2014. She has since completed an 18-month prison sentence and remains on probation.

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