SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — Since February 5th, charges have been dropped against 14 Hampden County drug suspects who were ready for trial and all of them are now free, according to court documents.
Five other suspects have had drug charges dropped, but are still being charged with secondary offenses.
Hampden County District Attorney Mark Mastroianni says that number will only grow because of Sonja Farak’s involvement.
Farak was arrested in January for allegedly tampering with drug evidence while working in the State Police Crime Lab. Missing evidence from the lab was found in Farak’s work station and in her car.
“We have to deal with reality of her not being able to come in as a witness. Therefore, we have no ability or limited ability to prove what the quantity, what the substance was,” Mastroianni said.
Documents show when detectives began searching for Farak last month, so they could question her about the missing evidence. They actually found her outside a Springfield courtroom waiting for a hearing.
She started working in the Amherst Drug Lab back in 2004. Along with three other chemists, her job was to test any drugs confiscated by police departments across western Mass. and then testify in court when the suspects headed to trial.
“There will be more trials where is a witness coming up this week, coming up next week, coming up in the next couple months,” Mastroianni said.
Of the 14 whose charges are already dismissed, at least nine were allegedly caught dealing drugs. For example, Agawam Police executed a search warrant on Scott Gutstein in 2011.
Court documents show they found more than 28 grams of cocaine, as well as marijuana and ecstasy. They were subsequent offenses for Gutstein, and are dismissed.
Mastroianni says many suspects would have been facing years in prison and that from arresting officers to prosecutors everyone is frustrated
“There is a lot of these individuals who have charges against them who are individuals with prior criminal histories, who are individuals who are not people that should be out in the community, who are doing only negative things in the community and are bringing communities down,” Mastroianni said.
At least four other suspects were found in possession of drugs within 300 feet of a school or park.
Defense Attorney Jared Olanoff has also filed two appeals in Springfield Superior Court on behalf of his clients that are currently serving time in prison for drug convictions that Farak was involved in.
Those cases will likely be heard starting next month.
Farak was also responsible for drug testing evidence from Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties, but so far no cases have been dismissed in those areas as a result of her involvement.