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Massachusetts State Chemist Found Guilty of Lab Miscoduct and Tampering With Trial Evidence

By of Aceto, Bonner & Cole, PC. posted in Criminal Law on Friday, August 5, 2016.

In 2014, Sonja Farak was sentenced to 18 months in jail for four counts of tampering with evidence, four counts of larceny of controlled substances from a dispensary, and two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Farak worked as a chemist in Massachusetts for the Amherst State Drug Laboratory prior to 2014.

As a state chemist, according to the Attorney General's report, Farak's responsibilities included "testing for authenticity, various controlled substances submitted by law enforcement agencies . . . and [she was] required to testify in court as to her test results, which served as evidence in criminal cases." Through an investigation conducted by the state Attorney General's Office, it was discovered that between 2005 and 2013, while working at the Amherst lab, Farak heavily abused various drugs from the lab and manufactured her own drugs using lab supplies. In 2013, after lab personnel realized drug samples were missing, the Amherst lab was shut down and Farak was arrested.

This is not the first instance of a Massachusetts state chemist having been found guilty of misconduct in a lab. In 2013, Annie Dookham plead guilty to evidence tampering, perjury, and obstruction of justice for falsifying drug testing. Her misconduct affected over 40,000 criminal cases. Farak worked on just as many criminal cases as Dookham during her time at the Amherst lab. The Attorney General's Office is concerned that Farak's misconduct could affect a substantial number of those cases. The Attorney General's Office is going to examine all of Farak's cases just as they did with the cases handled by Dookham.

What does this mean for criminals convicted as a result of evidence examined by Farak? This could mean thousands of mistrials and possible dismissal of charges or resulting retrials, especially if the evidence Farak examined was the main evidence used against the particular convicted individual. Until the Attorney General's Office concludes their examination, the public will not know exactly how many criminal cases Farak's misconduct affected.