DA to Drop Cases Involving Disgraced Drug Lab Chemist
Over 600 drug cases in Berkshire County will be dismissed due to misconduct by disgraced drug lab chemist Sonja Farak, former employee of the now defunct Amherst drug lab, who was arrested back in 2013.
According to The Berkshire Eagle, hundred of defendants facing drug charges will have their charges dropped, including a "handful" that now retired District Attorney David Capeless had hoped to retry. The news was confirmed by newly appointed Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello.
In January of 2013, Sonja Farak, was arrested after an investigation revealed she had tampered with, and stolen from drug evidence while employed at the State Crime Lab at University of Massachusetts Amherst, to support her own addiction.
In question is the reliability of the drug evidence used in these cases, as a result of Farak taking and using evidence and tampering with standard base samples used to certify incoming evidence at the lab. This cast doubt on the signatures she made certifying a drug was actually a drug, and also the corresponding weights.
Originally, the former Berkshire DA had hoped to be able to retry a small amount of the over 600 which were dismissed as a result of the investigation. However in a statement yesterday, Caccaviello says office will not pursue a retrial for any of the cases involved.
After a case-by-case review of the cases potentially affected by Ms. Farak's misconduct, there's a small number of cases that we determined had a basis to be legally maintained. So that the Attorney General's Office could pursue a more global and systemic response to the situation, they asked that I consider joining the other DA offices in a decision not to pursue any cases potentially affected by that misconduct.
In an effort to assist the process of moving not just past this difficult period, but continue with a system that the public can have confidence in, I have concluded that Berkshire will not pursue any of its cases potentially impacted by Ms. Farak's far-reaching misconduct. I believe, in the final analysis, this is the right thing to do, in the pursuit of justice on a larger scale.
Berkshire District Attorney Paul Caccaviello
A spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey said the office is pleased with Caccaviello's decision. The cases will join some 6,300 statewide already slated for dismissal in light of the scandal, and most of them here in Western Massachusetts.