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Massachusetts prosecutors forced to throw out 6,000 convictions tied to drug chemist who stole evidence

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Massachusetts prosecutors on Thursday said they would dismiss more than 6,000 convictions linked to a former forensic chemist who authorities said for eight years stole drug evidence and worked in a state lab under the influence.

The announcements by various district attorneys’ offices came after the American Civil Liberties Union and Massachusetts’ public defender agency in September asked the state’s top court to toss any cases tied to Sonja Farak.

“Today was a great day for the people who were wrongfully convicted,” said Daniel Marx, a lawyer at the law firm Fick & Marx who helped file the petition to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The dismissals came after prosecutors in April agreed to dismiss around 21,000 criminal drug cases because of a scandal involving a different state chemist, Annie Dookhan, who admitted faking tests.

Farak, a chemist at the Massachusetts State Crime Laboratory in Amherst, was arrested in 2013. She later pleaded guilty to stealing drugs from the lab and was sentenced in 2014 to serve 18 months in prison.

Marx said most of the convictions being dismissed tied to Farak involve low-level drug cases. He expected the number of dismissals of cases tainted by Farak to grow, and some district attorneys’ offices said they had not finalized a number.

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The biggest number of affected cases were brought by the Hampden District Attorney’s office, which said it will dismiss around 3,940 cases that involved drug samples linked to Farak.

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan had the second-largest number of planned dismissals, with 1,497 cases, which he blamed on the “egregious misconduct committed by one rogue chemist at the Amherst Lab.”

Several other county district attorneys said they would also dismiss what would amount to hundreds of cases. Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley in Boston said 134 convictions would be dismissed.

“Given the nature and extent of her misconduct, re-testing the substances at issue is unlikely to yield a reliable result,” Conley said.

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A Hampden County judge this year dismissed several cases tied to Farak after finding two ex-assistant attorneys general “tampered with the fair administration of justice” by withholding evidence related to the chemist.

The ACLU cited the ruling in arguing to the Massachusetts top court that the “level of prosecutorial misconduct is unprecedented” and warranted the dismissal of all wrongful convictions tied to Farak.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Dan Grebler and Clarence Fernandez)

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Republican lawmakers ask judge to destroy smoking gun documents proving GOP’s white supremacy

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Republicans on Monday sought a court order to block damning documents from being used against them in a lawsuit.

"North Carolina Republican lawmakers on Monday asked a court to make sure the files of the now-deceased GOP strategist Tom Hofeller are destroyed, or at least kept secret, instead of being used in a high-profile gerrymandering lawsuit," the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

"The filing comes after the groups behind the lawsuit, including Common Cause, accused Republican lawmakers of making false statements in court in a previous gerrymandering case, when the state’s 2011 maps were ruled unconstitutional," the newspaper noted. "That blockbuster accusation made national headlines and was, it said, based on Hofeller’s files which had been secret until recently."

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Maddow slams Trump’s era of government officials ‘saving the country from the commander-in-chief’ with leaks

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Rachel Maddow on Monday worried about the pattern of government officials leaking to the press to stop President Donald Trump from sabotaging United States' interests to help Russia.

The MSNBC anchor broke down the key questions raised by the bombshell New York Times report that officials were keeping secrets from Trump to protect U.S. interests.

Maddow reminded of a June 2017 story by Michael Isikoff.

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Trump angrily demands newspaper reveal unnamed sources behind bombshell report on his Russia policy

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President Donald Trump on Monday evening again lashed out at The New York Times for reporting on his Russia policy.

"The story in The New York Times about the U.S. escalating attacks on Russia’s power grid is fake news, and the failing New York Times knows it," Trump argued in a tweet sent after 10 p.m.

"They should immediately release their sources which, if they exist at all, which I doubt, are phony," he continued.

"Times must be held fully accountable," he demanded.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1140804748423118848

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