Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Annie Dookhan, a chemist who falsified the results of thousands of criminal drug cases in Massachusetts throwing into question more than 40,000 cases, pleaded guilty to charges of evidence tampering Friday and will spend three to five years in prison.
Dookhan, who worked for a Department of Public Health lab in Jamaica Plain in Boston, falsified drug tests in an attempt to appear an extraordinarily productive employee.
Dookhan pleaded guilty to a total of 27 charges, including obstruction of justice on top of evidence tampering.
“You plead guilty here because you are guilty?” Judge Carol S. Ball asked Dookhan in court Friday.
"Yes, your honor," Dookhan replied.
Ball said she wanted to impose a longer prison sentence than the maximum 3 years "given the magnitude of the harm she has done, considerations of general deterrence and, particularly, punishment."
“The consequences of her behavior, which she ought to have foreseen, have been nothing short of catastrophic," Ball said. "Innocent persons were incarcerated, guilty persons have been released to further endanger the public, millions and millions of public dollars are being expended to deal with the chaos Ms. Dookhan created, and the integrity of the criminal justice system has been shaken to the core.”
Her efforts meant hundreds of convicts were released, while others were falsely imprisoned, and cost the state as much as $17 million to reexamine cases she worked on.
Already, more than 600 people have had convictions erased or temporarily set aside, or were released on bail pending new trials, after a review found their cases may have been compromised by Dookhan's tampering. Another 300 people have already been released by the Massachusetts Department of Correction since last year.