More Defendants Released in JP Drug Lab Scandal
On Friday, two alleged criminals went free and another had a prosecution against him dropped because evidence against them had been handled by a chemist accused of tainting thousands of samples at at Jamaica Plain lab.
More defendants got out on bail or had cases dropped on Friday as shocks from the actions of a "rogue chemist" continue to shake the justice system.
The state is culling through 34,000 cases where drug evidence was handled by chemist Annie Dookhan. She's accused of tainting drug samples during years of employment at the State Drug Lab in Jamaica Plain.
On Friday the state cycled 19 defendants through one courtroom at Boston Municipal Court. In a process pointedly criticized by Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley as a waste of time and resources, few of the cases turned out to have any link to Dookhan.
Two men went free out of those 19. Both had evidence in their cases handled by the disgraced chemist.
In the morning, Christopher Colon, 21, of the South End, was freed on $500 bail in a decision praised by Conley as a model of how such cases should be handled. Colon, listed as Carlos Colon in the court docket, had been convicted in March 2011 of distribution of a Class B substance. That class includes cocaine.
At midday, Judge Mary Ann Driscoll released Michael Wells of Dorchester on his own recognizance, meaning he did not need to post bail. Wells used to work at Boston Common Coffee Co., according to his lawyer. He was convicted in July 2011 of distribution of a Class B substance in a school zone and possession of a Class B substance with intent to distribute.
Both Colon and Wells are scheduled to return to court in December as their cases are assessed, said Jake Wark, spokesperson for the district attorney.
Most other defendants, however, turned out not to have connections to Dookhan.
"The leadership of this court should be embarrassed," Conley said to a scrum of media during a court recess.
Conley was careful to say that Judge Driscoll, who was in charge on Friday, was not to blame for the court administration's bad planning.
'We're Not Going to Let the City Turn Into a Drug Haven'
Conley said he has spoken with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis about the likelihood of convicted drug dealers flooding back onto the streets of the city. He said authorities have a message for the up to 500 dealers who may go free.
"We are not going to let this city turn into a drug haven now that you're back," Conley said.
Elsewhere in the justice system on Friday, charges were dropped against Jeffrey Banks in Suffolk Superior Court. Alleged drugs in the case against him had been handled by Dookhan. Banks had been accused of distributing cocaine. The evidence was re-tested by State Police and found to be inert, according to Wark. Banks is in prison on other convictions arising out of Middlesex County.
Also on Friday, Quincy Police captured a convicted rapist who had new Dookhan-related drug charges against him when he failed to show up for court.
[Editor's note: This item has been updated with the neighborhoods of residence and nature of the convictions against Colon and Wells.]