GOP Healey Challenger Comes Out Swinging, Rips Attorney General Over Drug Lab Scandal

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Hingham Republican Dan Shores, who is challenging Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey next fall, on Wednesday denounced the manner in which the Charlestown Democrat decided to support quashing more than 8,000 drug-dealer-related convictions stemming from a scandal involving a state drug lab in Amherst.

Shores’s statement calling on Healey to fork over “all electronic and paper documents, including emails, relating in any way” to the scandal, marks his most blistering critique yet of the state AG.

“The Amherst drug lab scandal is a complete mess on multiple institutional levels,” Shores said. “At the end of the day, what do taxpayers get in return for their hard-earned tax dollars?  

“Many thousands of overturned drug-dealing convictions, and an Attorney General’s office that deceived and committed fraud upon the court.”

Shores’s remarks follow the decision in November from state district attorneys to dismiss all drug-related convictions involving a state drug lab chemist named Sonja Farak. Farak pleaded guilty in January 2014 to eight years’ worth of consuming drugs entrusted to her as evidence by the Massachusetts State Police. The AG’s role, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, involved “former prosecutors intentionally deceiving the court and defense lawyers by downplaying the scope” of the scandal.

Healey spokesman Emalie Gainey, in a statement provided to New Boston Post, stated the following:

“The crimes committed by Sonja Farak were egregious and her actions undermined the integrity of our justice system. For many months now, our office has been actively working with district attorneys to review and resolve cases affected by Farak’s misconduct. The attorney general has been clear that the conduct of two line prosecutors during the previous administration was unacceptable and beneath the standards she has set for the office. This is something that should never have happened and law enforcement across the state is working hard to make sure that it never happens again.”

The two former assistant attorneys general the press spokesman referred to — Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Foster — could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Healey was an assistant attorney general under then-Attorney General Martha Coakley. Farak’s misuse of cocaine, in addition to other narcotics, prompted the closure of the Amherst-based lab in 2013, prior to Healey’s 2014 election as Attorney General.

After the dismissal of convictions was announced in late November, Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU’s Massachusetts chapter, issued a public statement ripping Healey and other district attorneys over their approach to the situation.

“When the evidence of tampering came to light, Massachusetts’ elected district attorneys again failed to notify thousands of people who’d been wrongfully convicted by the tainted evidence, until we sued,” Rose noted.

Added Matthew Segal, ACLU of Massachusetts director:

“The attorney general’s office in any state should be a law firm for all the people, but for wrongfully convicted people, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office has not been their law firm. It has been their persecutor. It hid exculpatory evidence from them, it deceived courts and defense attorneys in their cases and despite that, it has not agreed to dismiss a single case that it handled, or even to make a list of which people it harmed. That is shameful.”

Shores, however, noted in his statement that his concerns align more with the tossing out of convictions and an outside investigation whose findings, praised by Healey, were “completely invalidated” by Hampden County Superior Court Judge Richard J. Carey. Shores in his press release directs readers to a report Carey ordered unsealed in 2016 documenting the findings of an investigation led jointly by Healey and Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan, which Shores’s campaign claims “reached the completely indefensible conclusion that ‘there is no evidence of prosecutorial misconduct or obstruction of justice’ by the attorney general’s office.’”

Shores’s press release notes that Healey, “through a spokesperson, said she was ‘pleased’ with the conclusions reached in the investigation.”

The report was completed by two retired state judges, Peter Velis and Thomas Merrigan. Shores’s press release links to Carey’s 127-page order, and directs readers to Carey’s commentary on two assistant attorneys general — Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Foster — both of whom left Healey’s office and managed to score “other public positions during AG Healey’s tenure,” the release states.  

State records show that Kaczmarek made approximately $111,563.88 in 2016 working for the state trial court as an assistant clerk magistrate. Foster, meanwhile, made $91,869.44 in 2016 working as a legal counselor under State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.

Records show that both former prosecutors whose work was labeled by Gainey as “unacceptable and beneath the standards” Healey “set for the office” are now making more money working in their current state positions than they did while working in Healey’s office. Kaczmarek made approximately $103,712.57 working under Healey in 2014, while Foster earned $60,000 in 2015.

Carey wrote that “the conduct of two assistant attorneys general, Kaczmarek and Foster, compounded and aggravated the damage caused by Farak.”

“Their intentional and deceptive actions ensured that justice would certainly be delayed, if not outright denied, and in the process, they violated their oaths as assistant attorneys general and officers of the court. In another parallel to Farak, Kaczmarek and Foster’s betrayal of the public trust also dragged into suspicion their colleagues in the attorney general’s office, who, like Farak’s lab colleagues, the court finds to be committed and principled public servants.”

Shores, in addition to related records, is also demanding Healey’s office to turn over “information relating to the conduct of AGO employees in the Amherst matter specifically as well as the Velis-Merrigan investigation” he claims “sought to shield the AGO [Healey’s office] from culpability.”

“The AG’s office is an institution of public trust for the administration of justice in our commonwealth, and the public deserves to know the scope of misconduct within the office itself relating to this matter,” Shores said. “I therefore call upon Attorney General Healey to publicly disclose all records relating to her office’s conduct in this matter, including the Velis-Merrigan Investigation that sought to whitewash the whole of the AGO’s misconduct and fraud.”

Healey’s camp has claimed they have turned over all public records related to the matter.

The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance reports, updated most recently on December 31, indicate that Shores’s campaign has raised approximately $22,174.92

Healey, in comparison, has raised nearly $4 million.