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October 19, 2013

Prosecutors seek stiff sentence for Mass. chemist

BOSTON — Prosecutors urged a judge yesterday to sentence a Massachusetts chemist to up to seven years in prison if she pleads guilty in a drug-testing lab scandal that jeopardized thousands of criminal convictions and cost the state millions.

Annie Dookhan, 35, of Franklin, faces a long list of criminal charges, including tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice and perjury for alleging faking test results at a now-closed state lab.

Dookhan’s lawyer, Nicolas Gordon, pleaded for leniency, saying Dookhan’s only motivation was to be “the hardest-working and most prolific and most productive chemist.” Gordon said “this whole mess” began when Dookhan, who failed to follow certain lab procedures in trying to test more samples.

When she got caught, she panicked and tried to cover her tracks, Gordon said.

He said she never thought her actions would send the state’s criminal justice system into a “tailspin,” with more than 1,100 criminal drug cases dismissed or not prosecuted because of evidence tainted by Dookhan’s alleged actions and other fallout from the closure of the lab.

“This is not a woman who ever set out to hurt anyone,” Gordon said.

Dookhan, who has shown no visible emotion during previous court hearings, cried when her lawyer described her love for her 7-year-old son while asking for leniency.

Gordon said Dookhan is terrified of going to jail and leaving her son, who has some health issues.

“Her son is her life,” Gordon said.

Gordon said Dookhan has already been punished personally and professionally. He said her husband left her a month ago and is now living with another woman. Her career is over, he said.

“This woman’s life is destroyed,” he said.

But Assistant Attorney General Anne Kaczmarek called Dookhan’s motives “selfish,” and said her actions have “weakened the criminal justice system.” She urged the judge to sentence Dookhan to five to seven years in state prison.

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