AG candidate urges Healey to release drug lab records

BOSTON — The courts have already admonished the Attorney General's Office for the conduct of two prosecutors who handled an investigation into tainted drug lab evidence, but Republican attorney Dan Shores, who is running for attorney general, questioned Wednesday whether the mistakes stopped there.

Shores, a Hingham resident and Boston lawyer, called on Attorney General Maura Healey to publicly disclose all records relating to the office's conduct during its investigation into Sonja Farak, a former drug lab chemist whose evidence tampering and drug use led to the dismissal of more than 8,000 drug convictions late last year. Farak was prosecuted under former Attorney General Martha Coakley.

The Republican, who is one of two candidates vying to challenge Healey in November, appeared to be trying to capitalize on recent national attention being paid to the Farak case after both the Washington Post and Rolling Stone published articles on the scandal.

In particular, Shores zeroed in on the allegations that two state prosecutors -- Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Foster - worked to conceal evidence of Farak's past drug use from defense attorneys for those seeking to have their drug convictions overturned. The evidence ultimately subjected eight years of past convictions to scrutiny.

"The AG's office is an institution of public trust for the administration of justice in our Commonwealth, and the public deserves to know the scope of misconduct within the office itself relating to this matter. I therefore call upon Attorney General Healey to publicly disclose all records relating to her office's conduct in this matter," Shores said in a statement.

Farak pleaded guilty in 2014 when Coakley was still the attorney general to stealing evidence at the Department of Public Health drug laboratory in Amherst and using drugs while on the job. Healey worked in the Attorney General's office at the time, but was not a part of the criminal division.

Healey's office said it doesn't plan a wholesale release of all the records, but pointed out it's been responsive to public records requests, and will continue to be moving forward, in addition to the thousands of pages that have been filed with the courts in the course of prosecuting Farak and associated investigations.

"The crimes committed by Sonja Farak were egregious and her actions undermined the integrity of our justice system. For many months now, our office has been actively working with District Attorneys to review and resolve cases affected by Farak's misconduct," Healey spokeswoman Emalie Gainey said.

As convicted drug offenders sought to have their convictions overturned due to Farak's behavior, Healey in 2015 appointed retired Judge Peter Velis and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan appointed retired Judge Thomas Merrigan to investigate the handling of the Farak case by prosecutors.

The subsequent Velis-Merrigan report, which was based on the work of two state police brought in by the judges as investigators, exonerated Kaczmarek and Foster of prosecutorial misconduct or obstruction of justice, but the findings were repudiated by Judge Richard Carey.

Carey wrote that the prosecutors had committed "fraud upon the court," and Healey's office has subsequently admitted that mistakes were made in the case before she was attorney general. Neither of the two lawyers still works in the attorney general's office.

"The Attorney General has been clear that the conduct of two line prosecutors during the previous administration was unacceptable and beneath the standards she has set for the office. This is something that should never have happened and law enforcement across the state is working hard to make sure that it never happens again," Gainey said.

A spokesman for Shores campaign said emails included in the Velis-Merrigan report show that Kaczmarek and Foster discussed the sharing of evidence with defense attorneys, but no one else was accused of shielding information from defense attorneys.

"The Attorney General has a chance to demonstrate transparency before a public records request is filed by voluntarily disclosing all electronic and paper documents, including emails, relating in any way to the Amherst drug dab scandal. The public deserves to know who else in her office might be responsible for his judicial travesty," spokesman Mark Steffen said.


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