BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — PEABODY — A 45-year-old former engineer with no prior criminal record will spend the next three years in state prison after pleading guilty yesterday to cocaine distribution charges.
Andrew Curda, of 8 Walnut St., Peabody, had been facing a five-year mandatory minimum prison term after his May 12, 2011, arrest, following the discovery of 66 grams of cocaine (more than 2 ounces), along with a small number of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills in his apartment, police said.
The drugs were worth about $7,000, police said at the time.
In the two weeks prior to the police search, an undercover officer had made three purchases of cocaine from Curda, prosecutor Greg Friedholm said during yesterday’s hearing in Salem Superior Court.
The three-year prison term, to be followed by two years of probation, came following negotiations between Friedholm and Curda’s attorney, William O’Hare.
Those negotiations were triggered by the discovery that former state Department of Public Health drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan was involved in testing the cocaine found in Curda’s apartment. Dookhan is under indictment on charges that she falsified test results and lied about her qualifications.
Curda’s case was one of many Essex County cases that were put on hold in the wake of Dookhan’s alleged misconduct.
Under the agreement, the original trafficking charge was reduced to possession with intent to distribute. Curda also pleaded guilty to three counts of distributing cocaine (to the undercover officer), and possession of the hydrocodone and oxycodone.
Curda, who has been free on $25,000 bail since shortly after his arrest, was taken into custody in the courtroom yesterday.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.