My Conversation With The Suffolk County assistant district attorney About Annie Dookhan
By Jamie Folk
Four the past four years, I’ve been investigating former Massachusetts state drug laboratory chemist Annie Dookhan, and her relationship with district attorneys across Massachusetts. According to the Inspector General, Dookhan was the “lone bad actor” in the drug lab scandal. They only wrote two sentences about her motive for what she did and her relationship with the state district attorneys in their report:
“The OIG did not determine Dookhan’s motive for tampering with her aliquots. However, the OIG finds that Dookhan’s motive was not based on a zealous desire to convict criminal defendants”
When that report was released in 2014, I already knew that statement was false. I knew that because of this article that was released four days before Christmas in 2012:
Dookhan’s email trail proved she LOVED the district attorneys of our state, and they loved her. She was their white knight, the chemist who always gave them what they wanted: sufficient evidence for convictions. This reality flies in the face of everything the Massachusetts inspector general, district Attorneys and media have asserted about what happened with Dookhan at the Hinton lab.
I found this reality very curious and have had several conversations about it with my elected officials. They were all shocked and outraged over what I showed them. I encouraged them to go to the Attorney General and demand they drop all charges against the thousands of Dookhan defendants. None of them followed up or went to the Attorney General so I decided to talk to the people prosecuting the case.
I first spoke with John Verner from the Attorney General’s office in September 2015. He prosecuted Dookhan for the attorney general’s office. He is a nice guy. I told him I knew Dookhan was in love with Norfolk County Assistant District Attorney [ADA] George Papachristos and was friends with several ADAs. He said he was aware of that but didn’t think she was rigging drug evidence to get convictions for her friends in the DAs office. I then showed him this email:
Verner had no answer to this email. He promised me he would bring this up with his supervisors and get back to me. He never got back to me and was later transferred to the Suffolk County ADAs office to work on cold cases.
The Suffolk County DAs office is fighting to uphold 24,000 convictions that were obtained, at least partially, through evidence tested by Annie Dookhan. The State Supreme Court is now deliberating on what to do with all these cases. I then called the Suffolk County DA to see if they knew about Dookhan’s motives.
On Dec. 19, 2016 I called the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and left a voicemail asking ADA Ian Leser (who is prosecuting the Dookhan case in front of the state Supreme Judicial Court) to call me back and discuss concerns I had about his office’s prosecution of cases where Annie Dookhan provided drug evidence. He called back a few hours later and we talked for approximately 30 minutes about Dookhan, the drug testing facility and the state’s criminal justice system in general.
During the course of the conversation, I said, “Dookhan was in love with former Norfolk County ADA George Papachristos.” Leser said he was well aware of that and that he met Papachristos in court once when Papachristos was a defense attorney defending a client. Leser said Papachristos introduced himself as “Annie Dookhan’s George Papchristos.”
I said, “Papachristos reported Dookhan’s inappropriate behavior to his supervisors at Norfolk County in 2009 and nothing was done about it,” and “He later leveraged Dookhan’s feelings for him for favors in testing drug evidence.” Leser agreed with that statement and said he was aware Papchristos reported Dookhan’s inappropriate behavior in 2009.
I then said, “Dookhan was friends with several DAs including some that worked in his office.” Lesser replied that he saw emails between Dookhan and DAs that revealed their friendly relationships. I asked if he saw emails that made it obvious that Dookhan wanted DAs to win cases and he said “Yes.”
I said, “She was clearly rigging evidence to help DAs win cases,” and Lesser agreed. I asked, “If you and your office knew all that information, then why are you fighting to uphold convictions they knew were made by a completely biased chemist who routinely rigged evidence?”
Lesser said they retested some of the evidence in these cases and it came back as true to what Dookhan tested. I said that didn’t matter because Dookhan would routinely add evidence to samples to ensure a defendant was convicted. Lesser didn’t have an answer for that.
I inquired about Sonja Farak, a chemist at an Amherst, Mass., lab who pleaded guilty in 2014 of stealing drugs and tampering with evidence, setting off a second scandal after she revealed she was using crack cocaine and other drugs while analyzing evidence at the lab. with where they conspired to give false testimony to classify a drug (Ecstasy Knockoff BZP) as Class E when it had yet to be scheduled by Massachusetts.
Lesser said he saw emails between Dookhan and Farak, and knew that Farak and Dookhan were both trying to convict people to help DAs. I said, “This was the biggest violation of constitutional rights in the history of the Commonwealth,” and Lesser agreed.
I said, “As a citizen, it scared me that people who work for the state and the DAs office could and did rig evidence to convict tens of thousands of people and violate their constitutional rights without seeming to care about the damage they did to these people’s lives.”
Lesser said he would bring my concerns to his boss.
Jamie Folk is a volunteer activist based in the MetroWest Boston area. He has written, spoken and organized events to express outrage over the gross injustice of tainted evidence provided by Annie Dookhan, who is out of prison after serving 2.5 years of a 5 year sentence.