SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 22, 2012

Drug suspect gets deal

Powell to serve 1-2 years in case affected by lab scandal

BEVERLY — Dwayne Damont Powell was carrying enough drugs when he was arrested to send him to prison for as long as 25 years, and a record that would have required a judge to impose at least five years behind bars.

Not to mention the struggle with police, during which he nearly got hold of an officer’s gun during the August 2010 arrest in Beverly.

But Powell, 40, will serve just one to two years in state prison after pleading guilty yesterday to a series of reduced charges, the result of a plea agreement reached by prosecutors.

He has an alleged rogue state police chemist named Annie Dookhan to thank for the opportunity.

Dookhan, who was arraigned Thursday on charges that include tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice, was involved in the testing of two of the three types of drugs found on Powell and in his car during his arrest.

Powell’s is just one of some 34,000 cases that Dookhan was involved in before she resigned last March. Her alleged misdeeds, including tampering with drug evidence to inflate the amounts and certifying evidence as drugs without actually testing the items, have called into question hundreds, if not thousands, of convictions.

Powell had 147 oxycodone tablets and five bags of cocaine, as well as marijuana, when he was arrested, prosecutor Michael Sheehan told a Salem Superior Court judge yesterday.

He also had more than $8,000 in cash.

The pills and cocaine were sent to the now-closed Hinton Lab in Jamaica Plain, where Dookhan was the chemist who tested them.

Beverly police had been investigating drug activity in the area near Dane Street Beach that summer. On the afternoon of Aug. 5, while conducting surveillance, they spotted Powell pull into the area near Lyons Park.

Police said at the time that as they approached his car, his jaw dropped. One officer opened the door, and as he did so, a bag of blue pills, 30 milligram oxycodone tablets, fell out. At the time, the pills were selling for $30 each.

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