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Accused Massachusetts crime lab chemist faces civil suit

Annie Dookhan, a former chemist at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute, listens to the judge during her arraignment at Brockton Superior C
Annie Dookhan, a former chemist at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute, listens to the judge during her arraignment at Brockton Superior C

By Daniel Lovering

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - A Massachusetts man who was indicted on drug charges filed a lawsuit in Boston federal court on Monday against a former state crime lab chemist, who stands accused of falsifying evidence in as many as 34,000 cases.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Jeffrey Solomon accused criminal laboratory chemist Annie Dookhan, 35, of violating his constitutional rights by falsifying the results of chemical tests performed on substances seized when he was arrested by Boston police in December 2010.

The lawsuit contends that Dookhan did not conduct any tests on the substance.

Solomon, of Boston, was arrested with a substance he told police was counterfeit cocaine, according to the lawsuit.

"Dookhan conducted no scientific testing on the substances... Dookhan falsely recorded that the substances tested positive for cocaine," the suit alleges.

Dookhan, whom prosecutors have charged with evidence tampering, determined the substance Solomon was carrying was real cocaine.

Prosecutors have charged Dookhan with visually identifying samples taken from suspects without doing the proper chemical testing.

Investigators last year said they had identified some 10,000 people convicted or accused of crimes based on evidence handled by Dookhan, 35, who was arrested in September.

As of last week, the state Department of Correction had released 286 people pending new trials as a result of Dookhan's activities at the Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston, where she worked for nine years.

Also on Monday, Dookhan pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice in her sixth and final arraignment.

In an appearance at Essex Superior Court in Salem, Annie Dookhan denied the charge, related to allegations that she falsely claimed to hold a master's degree, a court official said.

Dookhan was charged in six districts in the Boston area in the evidence tampering case, which rocked the Massachusetts state crime lab.

Prosecutors allege she tampered with drug evidence and faked test results at the lab, and that she had gotten the job by falsely claiming she had a master's degree in chemistry from the University of Massachusetts.

Dookhan was accused of making the claim while testifying under oath as an expert witness in 14 separate criminal trials, according to court documents.

Dookhan told officials she "screwed up big time," according to a police report. It said she told officials that no one else at the lab knew what she had done and that she was just trying to get more work done.

Dookhan was removed from the testing lab in June 2011 and resigned in March 2012.

She was scheduled to appear in court in Middlesex County on Friday for a pre-trial conference.

(Additional reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Leslie Adler, Leslie Gevirtz)

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