Dad defends chemist at center of Mass. lab scandal

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — The father of a chemist accused of deliberately mishandling drug samples at a state lab is defending her as the scandal plays out in court, including a case on Monday in which the sentences of a career criminal were put on hold by a judge who cited the ongoing investigation.

"No one has heard her side of the story," said Rasheed Khan, the father of chemist Annie Dookhan, from outside his home in Kissimmee, Fla., on Saturday.

He told The Associated Press that Dookhan had been bullied and abused, but he didn't say by whom. He declined to talk more about the allegations or case.

Dookhan is suspected of tampering with evidence, altering the weights of drug samples and purposely mishandling samples. The investigation prompted state police to shut down the lab last month.

The scandal could potentially affect thousands of drug cases handled by Dookhan. State police have said she handled more than 60,000 drug samples covering 34,000 defendants in the nine years she worked at the lab. Dookhan resigned in March during an internal investigation by the Department of Public Health.

Dookhan hasn't been charged, but the state attorney general is conducting a criminal investigation.

Judges in Suffolk and Norfolk counties have already begun to hear motions filed by defense attorneys seeking bail reductions for drug defendants awaiting trial in cases handled by Dookhan. Prosecutors have agreed to many of those motions, citing possibly tainted evidence.

On Monday, a judge agreed to put the sentences of career criminal David Huffman on hold and set bail for him at $75,000 cash, with GPS monitoring. The 55-year-old Huffman had pleaded guilty in August to trafficking in heroin and cocaine, possession of oxycodone with the intent to distribute and unlawful possession of ammunition and a firearm as an armed career criminal.

He began serving concurrent seven- to 10-year sentences last month.

Huffman's lawyer, Bernard Grossberg, said the next step will likely be for the defense to ask that Huffman be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.

"He would not have pleaded guilty to the gun charges if it was not part and parcel of his plea on the drug charges," Grossberg said.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney, said prosecutors opposed the motion to put his sentence on the gun charges on hold. He said the gun evidence was tested in a different lab and was unaffected by the drug lab scandal.

"This is an individual who's been involved in just about every type of property and violent crime over the course of 40 years. He is a mid-tier narcotics distributor and was a plague on the community," Wark said.

"We believe the judge should have treated the two cases separately," he said.

Prosecutors and district attorneys were scheduled to meet Monday afternoon with David Meier, a defense attorney and former prosecutor appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick to head an office being set up to review the thousands of cases handled by Dookhan.

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Associated Press writer Mike Schneider contributed from Kissimmee, Fla.

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