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Drug convictions compromised

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Updated: 2/03 7:33 pm
LAKE CITY, Fla.-- Sheriff's offices in Columbia, Alachua and 33 Florida counties are expecting visits from agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who are investigating evidence records related to possibly-compromised evidence by an FDLE laboratory.

"We take so much care as to how we process evidence. To have it mishandled, it would be very troubling," said Deputy Murray Smith, public information officer for the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.

According to FDLE commissioner Gerald Bailey investigators last week uncovered dozens of cases where prescription medication evidence was substituted with over-the-counter drugs by an FDLE chemist.

"Investigators found that lab submissions with missing evidence were processed by one chemist with the Pensacola Regional Crime Laboratory," said Bailey.  

The Columbia County Sheriff's Office is one of 85 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties that submit evidence to that Pensacola lab for analysis.
 
"His cases represent 1 percent of all drug cases that were worked during that time period," said Bailey. "However, the impact is going to be significant."

FDLE officials fear what happened with the drug processing at that one lab might compromise an untold number of drug cases handled by that lab, including convictions. Agents now plan to review evidence collected in all 2,600 cases this chemist worked since being hired in 2006.

The chemist has been pulled off the job; charges are pending further investigation.
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