August 11, 2019

FLASHBACK: Prosecutors who covered up Mass. drug lab scandal now face bar discipline, civil rights lawsuit.

In December 2011, after police in Springfield, Mass., had arrested Renaldo Penate for allegedly selling heroin, the drugs from that case were tested at a state drug lab by technician Sonja Farak. The same day that she did the tests, Farak wrote in a diary that she “tried to resist using [drugs] @ work but ended up failing.”

About two weeks later, Farak subsequently acknowledged, she spent the morning smoking crack in various bathrooms of her lab building, while also testing Penate’s drugs a second time. That same day, she found that police had submitted tablets of LSD. She took it, and “the sensation of colors in the wind left her unable to function for work,” court records show. Her actions would be discovered a year later, and Farak admitted she had been stealing and using drugs from the lab since 2004.

But when Penate’s lawyers asked for any information about Farak’s drug use during the time she was working in the lab, prosecutors with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office repeatedly refused to provide it. And so Penate was convicted and spent more than 5½ years in prison. A judge who investigated in 2016 called the prosecutors’ actions “intentional, repeated, prolonged and deceptive withholding of evidence from the defendants” and wrote that one of the prosecutors had a “lack of a moral compass.”

And yet pundits blame Trump for undermining faith in our institutions.

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