BRAINTREE, Mass. (AP) — Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan released a 50-page audit of the police department’s evidence room, calling the findings “deeply troubling.”
Six drug cases have been dismissed this week and hundreds more are being reviewed following an investigation into drugs, money and guns missing from the room.
Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey said Wednesday that prosecutors in his office are reviewing between 200 and 400 criminal drug cases as a result of an audit to determine the scope of problems related to the Braintree police evidence room. A report is expected to be released this week on the audit ordered by Braintree Police Chief Russell Jenkins.
“Basically, we learned that there is an issue of locating drugs — there are drug cases where evidence was tampered with or missing — and there is money that is either unaccounted for or missing,” Morrissey said Wednesday. He said the audit also determined “a number of guns were unaccounted for.”
“I find the auditor’s report of unaccounted-for items and poor record-keeping practices to be deeply troubling and unacceptable,” said Sullivan. “The police department under the supervision of Braintree Town Solicitor Lisa Mackey, has and will continue to determine the scope and the cause of the unaccounted-for items. This audit makes clear that there were significant administrative errors in the handling and the storage of evidence by the department.”
Braintree Officer Susan Zopatti, who was in charge of the evidence room, took her own life back in May. Sources said she shot herself in the torso just days after police began an audit of the evidence room.
Morrissey said his office will review cases to determine if there is a possibility of evidence being lost or tampered with, and if so, will notify defense attorneys.
“We cannot and we will not use tampered evidence,” he said.
Wednesday, a judge dismissed a drug case against Braintree man Stephen O’Brien. The 47-year-old is in custody after he allegedly tried to kidnap a 13-month-old from a store last month. O’Brien also had a previous drug charge pending and now a Norfolk County prosecutor is asking the judge to throw out the drug charge, citing the missing evidence from the Braintree Police evidence room.
Massachusetts has had a string of scandals involving tainted evidence. Thousands of drug cases were dismissed following the discovery in 2011 that former state chemist Annie Dookhan had tampered with drug samples and falsified test results. Dookhan was sentenced in November 2013 to three to five years in prison. She was paroled earlier this year.
Another former state chemist, Sonja Farak, pleaded guilty for tampering with evidence and other charges in 2014. Investigators said she was high almost every day during the eight years she worked at a drug lab in Amherst. Prosecutors have said thousands of cases were potentially affected by Farak’s misconduct.
Farak pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and related charges in 2014. She has since completed an 18-month prison sentence and remains on probation.
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