A former Massachusetts drug-lab chemist was high on the job nearly every day for eight years, according to a report from the state’s attorney general. The report said that the chemist, Sonja Farak, was under the influence of drugs like crack, meth, LSD, and ketamine as she testified in court in drug cases and while examining drug samples in a crime lab between 2004 and 2013.
The report from AG Maura Healey also said the chemist cooked crack cocaine in a crime lab at night while working overtime.
Anthony Benedetti of the Committee for Public Counsel Services said that “thousands” of drug prosecutions were imperiled. “Anything that went through that lab while she was there is in question,” he told the Boston Globe.
The 37-year-old former chemist has already served an 18-month sentence after pleading guilty in 2014 to evidence tampering, theft, and possession charges relating to a handful of criminal cases. The state’s investigation into her behavior was released Tuesday by the state’s attorney general. Farak was granted immunity from further prosecution for her assistance in the AG’s investigation. “All told, she estimated that she was smoking crack 10 to 12 times a day,” according to the report.
The report said that the woman began taking the lab’s so-called “standard” drugs, the ones purchased from drug companies as a control in testing. “Farak began to consume the Amherst Lab’s standards on a fairly regular basis beginning in late 2004 or early 2005,” according to the report. “The first standard she admitted to using was the methamphetamine standard, which was the largest or most voluminous standard at the Amherst Lab. The methamphetamine standard was a base sample, meaning its form was oil base and it was not cut or diluted with any other substance, essentially making the standard the purest form of a controlled substance.”
By 2009, she had “nearly exhausted” the lab’s meth standard—so she turned to consuming other standards, in addition to the drugs submitted by the cops for testing. All the while, her addiction went unnoticed until the end, when her appearance began to deteriorate, lab workers discovered missing samples, and she was “nosy” about which new drugs were being brought to the lab, according to the report.
Following her guilty plea, the attorney general’s investigation ensued. In a statement, the agency said that “the information we gathered during the course of our investigation is disturbing and will no doubt have implications for many cases. Now that our investigation is substantially complete, the district attorneys, defense attorneys and the court will need to determine how best to proceed on each of these individual cases.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said the “one sensible response” to the report is to “undo” the “wrongful convictions” of the thousands of affected defendants and to “rethink the unjust war on drugs.”