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Former state drug lab chemist Sonja Farak denies charges

  • Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, a former chemist at the state crime lab in Amherst, appears before Hampshire Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder in Northampton on Monday, April 24, 2013, for her arraignment on multiple counts of evidence tampering, drug theft and drug possession.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, a former chemist at the state crime lab in Amherst, appears before Hampshire Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder in Northampton on Monday, April 24, 2013, for her arraignment on multiple counts of evidence tampering, drug theft and drug possession.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Attorney Elaine Pourinski represents her client, Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, at an arraignment in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton Monday, April 24, 2013.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Attorney Elaine Pourinski represents her client, Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, at an arraignment in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton Monday, April 24, 2013.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hampshire Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder hears the plea of Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, a former chemist at the state crime lab in Amherst, at her arraignment Monday, April 24, 2013, on multiple counts of evidence tampering, drug theft and drug possession.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Hampshire Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder hears the plea of Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, a former chemist at the state crime lab in Amherst, at her arraignment Monday, April 24, 2013, on multiple counts of evidence tampering, drug theft and drug possession.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, a former chemist at the state crime lab in Amherst, appears before Hampshire Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder in Northampton on Monday, April 24, 2013, for her arraignment on multiple counts of evidence tampering, drug theft and drug possession.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Attorney Elaine Pourinski represents her client, Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, at an arraignment in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton Monday, April 24, 2013.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Hampshire Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder hears the plea of Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, a former chemist at the state crime lab in Amherst, at her arraignment Monday, April 24, 2013, on multiple counts of evidence tampering, drug theft and drug possession.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

NORTHAMPTON — The former state drug lab chemist at the center of an alleged evidence-tampering scandal denied 10 charges Monday in Hampshire Superior Court.

Sonja Farak, 35, of Northampton, pleaded not guilty before Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder to four counts of evidence tampering, four counts of larceny of a drug and two counts of possessing a class B drug (cocaine).

Alleged tampering in that lab led a judge to allow retrials in at least nine Hampden County cases in which Farak allegedly handled drug evidence.

She was released on $5,000 bail already posted after her January arraignment in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown. Her lawyer is Northampton defense attorney Elaine Pourinski.

While out on bail, Farak must submit to random drug screenings and observe a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, with exceptions available for visiting out-of-state family and pursuing job opportunities.

She is due back in court Aug. 26 for a pre-trial hearing.

Assistant Attorney General Anne Kaczmarek is prosecuting the case.

Farak is the second chemist charged in recent months with criminal activity in the state’s drug analysis labs. Annie Dookhan, 35, of Franklin, worked at the state lab in Jamaica Plain and was accused last year of faking test results. That has thrown thousands of criminal cases into question.

Farak was arrested in January after state police were contacted by the drug lab on the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst about discrepancies in its drug evidence inventory.

The Amherst Drug Laboratory was tasked with storing and analyzing substances seized by local and state police.

The investigation into the discrepancies led to allegations that Farak had tampered with four drug samples at the lab. In two of those cases, Farak allegedly mixed drug evidence samples with counterfeit drugs to hide the thefts, and in two other cases samples were missing altogether, according to the attorney general’s office.

In March, Hampden Superior Court Judge Richard Carey set bail for nine defendants in cases originating between January 2006 and January 2012, pending motions for new trials, because evidence in those cases had been handled by Farak.

The nine defendants were convicted of crimes including possessing cocaine with intent to distribute and trafficking.

Seven of the men pleaded guilty, according to Carey’s decisions. He wrote that suspect test results from the crime lab may have influenced the outcomes of those cases.

Carey said that a judge may find “the drug certificates allegedly tampered with by Farak were material to the defendant’s decision to enter a guilty plea on the drug charges.”

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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