May 4, 2016 - 10:30 am
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A former Massachusetts chemist was high on drugs almost every day for the nearly eight years she worked at an Amherst drug lab, according to an investigative report released by the state attorney general.
Investigators found that Sonja Farak, who tested drug samples submitted by police departments in criminal cases, worked in the lab and testified in court while under the influence of methamphetamines, ketamine, cocaine, LSD and other drugs between 2005 and 2013, according to court documents released Tuesday.
Cyndi Roy Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey, said the information gathered about Farak “will no doubt have implications for many cases,” but it is unclear just how many. She said it will be up to prosecutors, defense attorneys and the courts to determine the full scope of cases affected by Farak’s misconduct.
“We are deeply concerned whenever the integrity of the justice system is called into question or compromised,” she said.
One defense attorney told the Boston Herald that Farak handled about 30,000 cases during her career.
“This is a statewide scandal, and I think it’s going to take an enormous toll on the system,” attorney Luke Ryan said.
Farak’s case is unrelated to the case of Annie Dookhan, who worked at a state drug lab in Boston. Dookhan was sentenced in November 2013 to at least three years in prison after pleading guilty to faking test results in criminal cases that jeopardized thousands of convictions.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts said the number of criminal cases affected by Farak’s misconduct could rival the approximately 40,000 cases thrown into question by Dookhan’s actions.
Farak, 37, of Northampton, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, stealing cocaine from the lab and unlawful possession in January 2014 and was sentenced to 18 months behind bars and five years of probation. She served her sentence and has been released from prison.