Monday, January 6, 2014

Bulletin; Sonja Farak: Former state drug analyst given 18-month jail sentence for tampering with drug samples. Judge says that by stealing cocaine from the crime lab Farak had undermined public confidence in the state's criminal justice system - and sabotaged drug prosecutions in four counties. Amherst drug lab scandal described as "the second to rock the state's criminal justice system in two years." MassLive. (The Republican);

STORY: "Northampton chemist Sonja Farak gets 18 months in jail for tampering with drug samples," by reporter Jack Flynn, published by MassLive (The Republican), on January 6, 2014.

GIST: "Former state drug analyst (Sonja) Farak was given an 18-month jail sentence Monday after pleading guilty to stealing cocaine she was supposed to be testing. Superior Court Judge Mary-Lou Rup also ordered the 35-year-old Northampton chemist to serve 5 years of probation and 500 hours of community services following her release from custody. By stealing cocaine from the crime lab at the University of Massachusetts, Farak undermined public faith in the criminal justice system and sabotaged drug prosecutions in four western counties, Rup said during a hearing in Hampshire Superior Court. “I don’t have to tell you the number of cases - dozens, hundreds,” the judge said, summarizing the damage from the Amherst drug lab scandal.........Farak pleaded guilty to four counts of theft of a controlled substance from an authorized dispensary, four counts of tampering with evidence, and two counts of possession of a cocaine. The plea came two weeks after Farak was jailed for flunking a drug test while out on bail following her arrest in January 2013. The Amherst drug lab scandal was the second to rock the state’s criminal justice system in two years. In August 2012 the  state drug laboratory in Boston was shut down after chemist Annie Dookhan admitted to faking drug tests. In November, Dookhan was given a 3 to 5 year state prison sentence after pleading guilty to 27 counts of tampering with evidence, filing false reports and misleading investigators......... Noting that Farak’s parents, sisters, spouse and neighbors attended the hearing, Pourinski said the drug thefts were an aberration in an otherwise exemplary life. But Assistant Attorney General Anne Kaczmarek said the chemist had undone the work of police and prosecutors in hundreds of drug cases, many of which cannot be retried because the evidence no longer exists.........The case began when Farak’s co-workers contacted state police after samples of cocaine seized by Springfield police had vanished. Investigators traced the missing drugs to her work station, and later found cocaine and a crack pipe in her car, according to Kaczmarek."

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