In our last blog post, we discussed how the lingering Massachusetts drug testing scandal has marred our criminal justice system and shed light on the possible need for system reformation. We have now learned that the state prosecutors investigating now-disgraced drug chemist Sonja Farak knew she was tampering with samples and failed to inform legal teams for defendants who were actively involved in trials at the time. One, in particular, broke the true story wide open and is ongoing.
The Case of Rolando Penate
In 2013, Rolando Penate was facing charges relating to heroin distribution. Drugs from his arrest had been seized and were assigned to Farak for testing. This happened simultaneously as prosecutors were interviewing her and preparing for her arrest. There are documents from Farak’s trial that show she admitted to being high and dipping her hand in the drug cookie jar the day she certified Penate’s sample. When Penate’s attorney Luke Ryan requested the results of her test, prosecutors falsely told him the records were “irrelevant” and he was unable to obtain them prior to his client’s trial. Making matters worse, it was also at this time that the Attorney General’s Office stated that Farak’s crimes only went back as far as 2012, which we now know was a gross misrepresentation of her eight years of sustained drug use on the job.
Damning Evidence of Wrongdoing on All Sides
Ryan sought to have his client’s case dismissed due to the possible contamination of evidence by Farak. The presiding prosecutor blocked his motion, stating, “This is merely a fishing expedition. There is nothing to indicate that the allegations against Farak date back to the time she tested the drugs.” Penate was then sentenced to five to seven years in jail. It wasn’t until the following year when Ryan was representing a different client that he came across paper evidence of therapy session notes, emails, and other materials proving Farak’s extended violations relating to both his clients’ cases.
“There’s no question that highly exculpatory evidence was not disclosed. There’s no question that members of law enforcement, state police, and the attorney general’s office knew that they had these materials. And the reasons for why they weren’t disclosed, I think, remain one of the big questions that just needs to be answered,” Ryan recently told the press. Ryan is currently representing ten defendants convicted during Farak’s tenure and seeking to have their sentences overturned.
Far Reaching Effects
In our last post, we asked our readers if they thought all cases tainted by Farak and Annie Dookhan’s scandals should be overturned. The additional element that other law enforcement officials may have purposely hidden or tried to downplay the impacts of these actions only makes matters worse. It’s difficult to believe any people convicted in the area for drug crimes during these scandals received a fair trial.