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Charges dropped against professor accused of running meth lab with son

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  February 21, 2012 11:19 AM

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Criminal charges have been dropped against a longtime college professor who was summonsed to court three months ago, but never arraigned, on charges of running a methamphetamine lab out of her Somerville home with her son, authorities said.

Last Thursday, “in the interest of justice,” 74-year-old Irina Kristy was cleared of the charges – distribution of meth, conspiracy to violate the drug law, and drug violation in a school zone – that Somerville police had filed against her in Somerville District Court on Nov. 14, according to Cara O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s office.

The charges -- which her 30-year-old son still faces -- were dismissed “following a subsequent investigation” by the local police department and the district attorney’s office, O'Brien said, confirming the news reported in recent days by The Somerville Journal, Somerville Patch and The Daily Free Press.

Kristy had taught mathematics for more than two decades at two local colleges, Boston University and Suffolk University, before she was placed on administrative leave last semester from each school in the weeks after her court summons was filed and has not returned to work at either since.

She did not return a voicemail left for her today at her home, but her lawyer Robert L. Peabody of Boston-based law firm Collora LLP said today that she is "obviously very pleased that Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone did not pursue further the charges against her."

"We're hoping she'll be reinstated at those institutions," Peabody said, referring to the two colleges that placed her on leave last semester. "To the universities' credit, they suspended her with pay," through last semester.

He declined to say whether she continues to receive pay this semester and also declined to comment further about the case because he said Kristy would not want to compromise the ongoing criminal proceedings against her son.

But, the attorney forwarded a copy of a letter that he said he, his client and a host of Boston-based, regional and international academics wrote in her support and submitted to prosecutors as part of an effort to convince the district attorney's office she was innocent.

The text attests to Kristy's character and details her background as a human rights activist in her native Russia where, because of her outspokenness, she was subjected Soviet persecution that eventually forced her in 1985 to emigrate to the US. Nearly 50 years old at the time and able to speak only limited English, the letter says she secured a job at Suffolk University within one year as she simultaneously raised her then 3-year-old son and cared for her husband who was suffering from incurable multiple sclerosis, of which he died in 1998.

"We put it together along with the academics to give the district attorney's office a broader picture of who Irina Kristy is and where she'd come from," Peabody said of the letter.

Above a four-page list of the letter's endorsers, the document says, in part: "We all know her as a person of highest moral standards, a champion of law and justice, who sacrificed her academic career in the Soviet Union and risked her freedom and life defending the rule of law and human rights there. For over 25 years she has been a revered member of the academic community in Boston. It is absolutely impossible that such a person would knowingly tolerate, let alone be involved in, a criminal activity, like the manufacturing and sale of narcotic drugs."

Kristy's son Grigory Genkin moved into her home as a young adult several years ago following "a difficult past," and that the mother was "so relieved to be able to provide a home for her son that she would never have considered invading his privacy or interfering in his life."

Though they lived together, Kristy's busy professional life working one full-time and one-part-time teaching job in higher education kept her away from the house for long periods of time on workdays, according to the letter. She left her house at 6 a.m. and returned after 10 p.m. most days, the document says.

"Her distraction as a result of a significant work load ... and included humanitarian activities, her absent-mindedness typical of someone of her advanced age (74), and her naïve respect for the privacy rights of her son all contributed to this unfortunate situation," the letter of support said. "We are willing to vouch that Prof. Kristy had no knowledge or understanding whatsoever of possible illegal conduct occurring inside her apartment."

Kristy was originally scheduled to be arraigned in late December. But, after multiple postponements, the planned court proceeding never happened, the district attorney spokeswoman said.

Late last fall, on the same day police summonsed Kristy on the accusations, Genkin, her son, pleaded not guilty to the same three charges and was ordered he be held on $1,000 cash bail.

At the time of the accusations, the mother and son lived together in a home on Oxford Street – about 500 feet from City Hall and an elementary school.

Prosecutors continue to pursue the charges against Genkin, the district attorney spokeswoman said. He is scheduled to appear in court next Wednesday for a probably cause hearing, she said.

Genkin was arrested in November when, accompanied by his attorney, he turned himself in to authorities, Somerville police have said.

On Nov. 7, in a daylong search of the second-floor residence at 19 Oxford St., investigators from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies recovered evidence that the site was being used to make methamphetamine, Somerville police said in a prior statement.

"A large amount of materials believed to be hazardous" were removed from the property by hazardous materials specialists, and other items believed to be dangerous were detonated by the State Police bomb squad, the statement said.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said today that she is not teaching this semester, but did not know if she remains on the paid leave she was place on in the fall semester. He said all of the school's faculty positions for the remainder of the spring semester are filled and declined to comment about her potential future employment with the university, where she has worked as a lecturer in the math department since 1987.

Kristy had been teaching three courses each semester at BU before she was placed on leave on Dec. 5, one day after a Globe report on her then-impending arraignment.

Kristy also taught math as an adjunct professor at Suffolk from 1985 until Nov. 28, when "after the university learned of the charges," she was placed on administrative leave through the end of the fall semester, a school spokesman said previously.

At Suffolk, adjunct faculty are appointed semester-by-semester. In early December, officials said that Kristy had not been appointed to return for the current, spring semester.

Greg Gatlin, spokesman for Suffolk, said today that Kristy is not teaching at the university this semester and declined to comment further.

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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