By Warren Talbot
---- — LAWRENCE – A Lawrence man accused of drug trafficking decided to take his chances with a new trial after it became known that former state lab worker Annie Dookhan was the primary chemist in his case.
That decision backfired on Angel Rodriquez, when a jury in Lawrence Superior Court yesterday found him guilty of trafficking over 100 grams of cocaine and Judge Mary-Lou Rup sentenced him to eight years to eight years and one day in state prison.
Rodriquez, 49, withdrew his guilty plea because his case was one of about tens of thousands handled by Dookhan, accused of tampering with evidence in drug cases brought to the state’s Hinton lab in Boston.
Rodriquez had pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of trafficking over 28 grams of cocaine on January 29, 2008. He was sentenced to serve five to seven years in state prison. On May 29, 2013, Rodriquez’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea was allowed based on the fact that Dookhan was the primary chemist on his case.
Essex Assistant District Attorney Ashlee Logan proved that Rodriquez was in possession of over 100 grams of cocaine and had the intent to traffic it, based on the fact that the State Police Crime Lab re-tested and confirmed that the substance was in fact cocaine and it weighed in excess of 100 grams.
Authorities have said Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants at Hinton state lab. State police closed the lab last summer, months after Dookhan’s resignation during an internal probe by public health officials.
At least 337 state prison inmates have been released as a result of Dookhan’s case, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security said Friday.
“Since the information about Ms. Dookhan’s conduct at the Hinton Lab came to light, this office has carefully reviewed each and every case in which she was involved to ascertain the facts,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said yesterday. “In this case, as in many others, the drugs were still available to be re-tested and confirmed that this defendant was in fact trafficking cocaine. It is for this reason that I have rejected the wholesale argument that a defendant should be released simply because Ms. Dookhan had some involvement in their case.”
Rodriquez was represented by Attorney Victoria Ranieri and received 2,401 days credit toward his sentence.
Meanwhile, Dookhan, 35, of Franklin, is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 6.