Prosecutors today will recommend a five- to seven-year prison sentence for a disgraced former state drug lab chemist if she pleads guilty to charges in the scandal that tainted as many as 40,000 criminal cases, forced the release of hundreds of convicted criminals and is expected to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
While the recommendation for former Hinton State Laboratory chemist Annie Dookhan is more than twice the sentencing guidelines, criminal defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio suspects prosecutors are offering her a good deal to avoid a trial during which other problems at the lab may come to light.
"I'm looking forward to the trial so we learn what really happened, and I think the commonwealth wants to get rid of this one with a relatively short sentence so we will not have a trial," Scapicchio said.
Prosecutors filed the sentencing memo yesterday in advance of a conference today in Suffolk Superior Court, saying they were making the recommendation "in contemplation of the defendant accepting responsibility and pleading guilty." The conference, however, does not mean Dookhan will change her plea. Dookhan's lawyer said he hopes to limit her jail time to just one year.
In the memo, prosecutors said Dookhan has caused "egregious damage" to the criminal justice system and "significant incarceration" is warranted.
Dookhan is charged with obstruction of justice, perjury and tampering with evidence while working at the lab, which was shut down in August 2012. State police yesterday said there are no plans to reopen the Jamaica Plain lab.
"The overflow is going to be handled by planned expansions of Maynard and the Carando Drive lab in Springfield," Trooper Todd Nolan said.
At least 1,100 criminal cases have been dismissed or not prosecuted because of tainted evidence. Several so-called Dookhan defendants have since been rearrested, and at least one of them is facing a murder charge.
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