Disciplinary hearing for prosecutors in Sonja Farak drug scandal opened by Board of Bar Overseers

The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers on Monday opened a disciplinary hearing into the actions of three prosecutors connected with the Amherst drug lab scandal that led to the dismissal of thousands of drug convictions.

“These respondents are individually responsible for acts that prevented the disclosure of information that was unquestionably helpful to the defendant, and those acts violated the rules of professional conduct,” said Stacey Best, Assistant Bar Counsel, in her opening remarks.

The respondents include assistant attorneys general Kris Foster, Anne Kaczmarek and John Verner who were connected with a drug lab scandal involving disgraced former state chemist Sonja Farak, who admitted to stealing and using drugs from a state lab in Amherst.

Farak pleaded guilty to four counts of evidence tampering, four counts of larceny of a controlled substance from a dispensary and two counts of unlawful possession of a Class B controlled substance in Jan. 2014.

In Nov. 2014, a case in Hampshire County Superior Court revealed that the Attorney General’s Office had failed to share information related to Farak’s misconduct to several district attorneys’ offices, allegedly covering up the scandal, court filings state.

The information showed that Farak’s behavior had gone on for years and that she had taken and used several types of narcotics from the state lab and had sought therapy for drug addiction.

In the petition for discipline filed in June 2019, Bar Counsel wrote that the three prosecutors violated rules of professional conduct by participating in actions that led to the failure to disclose such information.

“The evidence will show that the respondents had an obligation to turn over this information,” said Best.

But the three prosecutors said they didn’t intend to hide the information and had no obligation to share it.

“Let me be clear. John Verner had no intent ever to hide evidence. John Verner had no intent ever to hold back evidence from the district attorneys and John Verner had no intent ever to hold back mental health worksheets,” said Attorney Patrick Hanley in Monday’s virtual hearing.

Hanley said the charges related to the failure to produce documents and information held by other prosecutors or the court are “meritless.”

“John Verner did his job as well as anyone could under the circumstances,” said Hanley.

Thomas Kiley, representing Kaczmarek, said, “It was not the function of the Attorney General to look into the scope and timing and implications of what occurred in the Amherst lab.”

George Berman, representing Foster, said “The rules of professional conduct not only permit Foster to process as she did, but they specifically envision that lawyers in her situation will do exactly what she did.”

The hearing is expected to last several days.

“At the conclusion of this case, the totality of the details will leave you unable to excuse the conduct of each of these respondents and that their conduct was deeply damaging indeed,” said Best.



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