BOSTON — A Massachusetts chemist accused of faking drug test results now finds herself in the same position as the accused drug dealers she testified against: charged with a crime and facing years in prison.
Annie Dookhan, 34, of Franklin, was arrested yesterday in a burgeoning investigation that has already led to the shutdown of a state drug lab, the resignation of the state’s public health commissioner and the potential upending of thousands of criminal cases.
“Annie Dookhan’s alleged actions corrupted the integrity of the entire criminal justice system,” state Attorney General Martha Coakley said during a news conference after Dookhan’s arrest. “There are many victims as a result of this.”
Dookhan faces more than 20 years in prison on charges of obstruction of justice and falsely pretending to hold a degree from a college or university.
Dookhan’s alleged mishandling of drug samples prompted the shutdown of the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston last month.
State police say Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab. Defense lawyers and prosecutors are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the fallout.
Since the lab closed, more than a dozen drug defendants are back on the street while their attorneys challenge the charges based on Dookhan’s misconduct.
Many more defendants are expected to be released. Authorities say more than 1,100 inmates are currently serving time in cases in which Dookhan was the primary or secondary chemist.
During Dookhan’s arraignment in Boston Municipal Court, Assistant Attorney General John Verner called the charges against Dookhan “preliminary” and said a “much broader” investigation is being conducted.
Verner said state police learned of Dookhan’s alleged actions in July after they interviewed a chemist at the lab who said he had observed “many irregularities” in Dookhan’s work.