Dookhan’s direct supervisors did little to prohibit her continued involvement in drug cases even after she was caught improperly removing drugs from the evidence storage area for 60 Norfolk County cases in June 2011.
Just before she resigned under pressure in March 2012, Dookhan was preparing to testify in upcoming drug trials, and even though she was not allowed to do any more drug tests, she still had free run of the lab.
“I have full access to anything and everything, one of the advantages, so some of the other chemists are resentful of me,” she wrote to Papachristos in November 2011.
Dookhan pleaded not guilty to 26 felony charges in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday in a case that has mushroomed into the biggest law enforcement scandal in recent Massachusetts history. The State Police have closed the lab altogether, and at least five officials responsible for oversight of the lab have resigned or been fired.
Meanwhile, the cost of the scandal threatens to top $100 million, and public safety officials fear a crime wave as one convicted drug offender after another is released. Eight have already been rearrested on new charges.
Dookhan’s attorney, Nicolas Gordon, declined to comment because he has not seen the e-mails, but he said he thinks the correspondence will prove critical in her defense. He did not elaborate.
Dookhan allegedly said to State Police last summer, “I screwed up big time.”
In e-mails, Dookhan portrayed herself as a woman proud of her extraordinary work ethic. She described taking drug analysis work with her on a family vacation to Spain in 2010 and boasted that she was usually at work long before the rest of the staff.
“I believe you are the hardest working drug chemist I have worked with,” Papachristos told her in March 2011.
Dookhan also exaggerated her credentials; she is facing one criminal charge for falsely claiming to have a master’s in chemistry in court testimony. In e-mails, Dookhan identified herself by a variety of titles, including “on-call terrorism supervisor,” for jobs authorities say she did not have.
Several prosecutors seemed to take particular delight in working with Dookhan, especially in Norfolk County. Payton called herself an Annie Dookhan “hog” because she was so eager to get Dookhan’s help analyzing drug samples. Payton addressed Dookhan and one other chemist as her “dream team!”
Allison Callahan, a Suffolk assistant district attorney, was so happy with Dookhan’s help on a big marijuana case that she promised to take her to an upscale bar to celebrate after the defendant pleaded guilty.
“Hey, Annie, you’re the best!” Callahan wrote in July 2011. “The ton of weed case pled after your testimony. I think the defense was impressed that a tiny woman could lift those bails [sic] of marijuana. I owe you drinks, Gypsy Bar:)”
But it was Dookhan’s relationship with Papachristos that proved most friendly and most problematic. From an initial e-mail meeting over a case in March 2009 — she called him Mr. Papachristos, and he asked if it was “OK if I call you Annie?” — their online friendship graduated to cards of encouragement from Dookhan and swapping stories of their shared Greek heritage.
“When you get upset and frustrated, there’s always M&Ms; at least my cure all is chocolate,” Dookhan wrote to Papachristos in June 2009. “But just know you have a friend if you need to talk or anything.”
“My problems are far less important than yours, believe me,” Papachristos wrote in August 2009 after she apparently told him about her marital problems. “Mine revolve around meeting the right girl, which up to this point hasn’t happened, and it is very frustrating.”
The e-mails suggest that the pair met in person only a handful of times, but their correspondence continued to be unusually personal long after Papachristos received threatening text messages from Dookhan’s husband, Surren Dookhan in August 2009.
They called each other nicknames — she was “kiddo,” he was “old man” — and shared dreams: Papachristos desperately wanted to be a federal agent for the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Agency and Dookhan tried to help him, to no avail.
By late 2009, Dookhan was using her maiden name, Khan, and saying she was divorced, though it is unclear if that was true. In 2012, she told State Police she was still going through a long divorce and her husband was in the house when they interviewed her.
In December 2009, Dookhan appeared to create fictitious e-mails purportedly from an assistant US attorney in which she discussed her lonely romantic life and sent copies to Papachristos. The US attorney’s name was misspelled and federal officials said the e-mails were never sent.Continued...