- Associated Press - Thursday, September 27, 2012

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Thursday he expects criminal charges will be brought in an investigation of misconduct by a state lab chemist who admitted faking drug-sample results, forging signatures and skipping proper procedures.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Patrick said he shut down the drug lab soon after learning of admissions that chemist Annie Dookhan made during an interview with state police at the end of August. The governor said he finds it troubling that Ms. Dookhan and her supervisors “did not seem to understand the gravity of this.”

State police say Ms. Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples covering 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab. She resigned in March during an internal investigation by the Department of Public Health, which ran the lab up until July 1, when state police took over as part of a state budget directive.

The scandal has thrown thousands of drug convictions into question. Already, judges have reduced bail and put sentences on hold in approximately 20 cases handled by Ms. Dookhan.

Ms. Dookhan’s admissions were detailed in state police reports obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press.

When asked why Ms. Dookhan has not been arrested yet, Mr. Patrick referred to a criminal investigation being conducted by Attorney General Martha Coakley.

“I fully expect, and indeed I will say, I hope that there are charges, and I think that all of those who are accountable for the impact on individual cases need to be held accountable,” Mr. Patrick said.

Ms. Coakley’s spokesman, Brad Puffer, said the criminal investigation “remains active and ongoing.”

“Our office provided the preliminary findings of our investigation to stakeholders so that immediate steps could be taken in the interest of justice,” Mr. Puffer said.

Chemists who worked with Ms. Dookhan told investigators they had concerns about her work for several years, but they either convinced themselves they were invalid or reported them to supervisors who failed to intervene.

Ms. Dookhan admitted to investigators that she faked drug-sample results for two to three years, according to the report.

Attorney Rosemary Scapicchio, who represents several defendants whose samples Ms.  Dookhan handled, called for federal officials to take over the probe.

“I can’t imagine she could have been this corrupt without someone noticing,” she said. “The investigation needs to go deeper than Annie Dookhan to get to the point of ‘How did she get away with it?’”

The state has created a central office to examine cases Ms. Dookhan was involved with and figure out how to deal with them.

After state police took over the lab, they said they discovered that her violations were much more extensive than previously believed and went beyond sloppiness into deliberate evidence mishandling.

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