Chemist at heart of state lab scandal pleads not guilty in Middlesex Superior Court
The former state chemist at the heart of a laboratory scandal that has jeopardized thousands of Massachusetts drug cases pleaded not guilty today to obstruction of justice charges in Middlesex Superior Court.
Annie Dookhan of Franklin was released after the arraignment and is slated to return to court on Feb. 8 for a pre-trial conference.
Wearing a gray pantsuit, she entered her plea in a soft voice in a proceeding that lasted only three or four minutes.
The judge said she could continue to remain free on the conditions of bail set in Suffolk Superior Court, where she faces more charges stemming from the case. Those conditions were that she must post $10,000 cash bail, wear a GPS tracking device, and stay away from eyewitnesses.
It’s the first of two arraignments today for Dookhan. She also faces an arraignment in Norfolk Superior Court.
Dookhan faces a total of 27 charges: 17 counts of obstruction of justice, eight counts of tampering with evidence, perjury and falsely pretending to hold a degree from a college or university, the attorney general’s office says.
Prosecutors say Dookhan altered drug evidence when she worked testing drugs seized by police at a now-closed state lab in Jamaica Plain.
It is a crucial part of drug cases that the government show that substances seized from defendants have been handled carefully and scientifically tested and determined to be illegal drugs.
So far 159 people have been released from custody because of questions about the evidence in their cases, the Globe reports today.
Suffolk prosecutors said today that a man arrested by Chelsea police for drinking beer at a McDonald’s and refusing to leave told the arresting officers, “I just got out on Annie Dookhan and I ain’t going back to jail.”
Jonathan Vaughan, 26, also allegedly had eight baggies of suspected crack cocaine in his belongings. He was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail at his arraignment today before Chelsea District Court Judge Matthew Machera.
Charges against him included possession of a Class B substance with intent to distribute, subsequent offense; disorderly conduct; drinking in public; trespassing; resisting arrest; and assault and battery on a police officer, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office said.
Prosecutor Michelle Slade, who argued for the bail, said Vaughan had an extensive criminal record, including convictions for which he had served jail time.
Defense attorney Richard Barrett questioned whether his client had been drinking “in public,” since he was inside the McDonald’s Express in Bellingham Square.