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Drug convictions for trafficking and distribution likely to be vacated based on Braintree Police Evidence Scandal

Drugs convictions and other types of criminal convictions may be vacated based on the lack of oversight at the Braintree Police Department.  Following the completion of an audit conducted on Braintree Police Department’s evidence room, it is suspected that thousands of items, items such as weapons and money, are among the missing. It is estimated that roughly $407,998.oo in cash is missing from the department, and nearly 60 guns have gone unaccounted for (Patriot Ledger, 2016).  This week according to the Patriot Ledger several drug trafficking charges were dismissed, this scandal is likely to result in numerous motions for new trials and to vacate pleas in cases involving the Braintree police, alleging new discovered evidence, lack of knowledge of the status of the evidence and or ineffective assistance of counsel in making a plea or in handling the trial.  To learn more about what rights you may have if your were arrested by the Braintree police, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer or fill out the form on our website.

Not only are several thousand pieces of evidence missing, the audit revealed the disheveled record-keeping, or lack thereof, was completely mishandled- evidence was left unlabeled and sexual assault test kits were simply left outside in a trailer. A whopping total of 4,709 pieces of narcotics evidence are unable to be accounted for, and 38 pieces have been tampered with- meaning they have been opened or left unpackaged. In theory, the evidence is supposed to be stored in an orderly fashion, with a chronological date attached as well as the Braintree Police property number. However, this was not the case.

Over several years, it is common for police departments to seize massive amounts of money from offenders. While this sort of evidence is supposed to be kept track of and monitored frequently, the evidence bags containing money at the Braintree Police Department appeared to either be ripped open or cut at the bottom. Mostly, this cash was the product of crimes which occurred in the years of 2001, 2002, 2012 and 2013 (Patriot Ledger, 2016), with a majority of this money missing from 2001 specifically.

Originally, the audit revealed that a total of 60 firearms were missing from the department. The Braintree Police Department and WCVB News in Boston are now reporting that all but 12 of the “missing” firearms have been accounted for. The police departments evidence officer until more recently, Susan Zopatti, had two firearms stored at her house. After her death in May from a self inflicted gun shot, the guns were recovered.

The audit will hopefully bring about changes at the local police department. The state police, who conducted the audit, recommended several changes to put into effect immediately to hope reverse the issues. If the recommendations are followed, an improved evidence system will be intact.

 Mayor Joseph Sullivan noted that “…this audit makes clear that there were significant administrative errors in the handling and storage of evidence by the department. New protocols and procedures on the handling and storage of evidence have already been established” (Braintree Patch, 2016). 

This audit is likely to undermine pleas or convictions in all types of criminal cases from Braintree, including sex cases, drugs charges and OUI offenses.  Contact Attorney DelSignore at 781-686-5924 if you have questions about whether you can seek post conviction relief.

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