Annie Dookhan, the drug analyst who tampered with evidence and jeopardized tens of thousands of criminal convictions, was sentenced Friday to three to five years in state prison, closing a sorrowful chapter for the woman at the center of a scandal that continues to plague the state’s criminal justice system. The 36-year-old mother of a disabled child, whose marriage fell apart in the months after the scandal, softly pleaded guilty to 27 counts of misleading investigators, filing false reports, and tampering with evidence. She must also serve two years of probation and undergo mental health counseling, if needed.
After the sentence was handed down, Dookhan struggled to hold back tears as she whispered with her lawyer before being led away in handcuffs by court officers. Two family members, believed to be her parents, watched from the courtroom gallery. Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office prosecuted the case, said in an interview later that the conviction of Dookhan was only one part of an ongoing investigation into the quality of drug testing at the Hinton drug lab, but she said it was needed to bring some accountability for her crimes.
“Certainly one of the victims in this case, and the actions of Annie Dookhan, is the public trust,” Coakley said.
Dookhan’s lawyer, Nicolas A. Gordon, would not comment after Friday’s hearing. He had asked Suffolk Superior Court Judge Carol S. Ball to sentence Dookhan to no more than a year in prison. Dookhan admitted to filing false test results and mixing drug samples, and to later lying under oath about her job qualifications, but she said it was only to boost her work performance.
Prosecutors had asked that Dookhan serve 5 to 7 years in prison, but Ball kept to her earlier decision that she would sentence the chemist to 3 to 5 years, finding that, while Dookhan was a “broken person who has been undone by her own ambition,” the consequences of her crimes were still “nothing short of catastrophic.”Considering how many people were sent to prison without proper due process (well into the dozens or hundreds, I suspect), her sentence is comically insufficient. Harry Elston is on record (on Twitter) saying that she should be serving the sum total of time served by the innocent people that she sent to prison; can't say I disagree with him.
UPDATE: Here's Carmen Drahl's story on the sentencing at C&EN. Via Carmen and WBUR, the judge's sentencing opinion, which gives some insight as to her logic.