Board of Bar Overseers finds misconduct in Farak case

3 assistant AGs failed to disclose exculpatory evidence

THE BOARD OF BAR Overseers has found that three assistant attorneys general engaged in numerous acts of misconduct related to the Attorney General’s prosecution of drug lab chemist Sonja Farak. 

In a 98-page decision, special hearing officer Alan Rose found that the attorneys – former assistant attorneys general Anne Kaczmarek and Kris Connolly Foster and former chief of the criminal division John Verner – failed to disclose exculpatory evidence as to the timing and scope of Farak’s drug use and tampering. Rose also found at least one of the attorneys responsible for intentional misrepresentations to the court and third parties, failure properly to supervise subordinates, lack of competence and diligence, and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice – though each attorney was not found responsible for each charge. 

Farak, who worked as a chemist at the Amherst state drug lab from 2004 to 2013, pleaded guilty to stealing drug samples from the lab to feed her addiction. Thousands of drug convictions were overturned due to her theft. During litigation related to that case, it was discovered that attorneys from then-attorney general Martha Coakley’s office failed to release exculpatory evidence to attorneys for drug defendants affected by Farak’s actions – information the defendants were legally entitled to have. The lawyers said withholding the evidence was a mistake.  

Kaczmarek was appointed by Verner, her boss, to oversee Farak’s prosecution. Foster was assigned to the case later, to handle subpoenas stemming from lawsuits filed by drug defendants.  

After a 23-day videoconference hearing in the fall of 2020, Rose issued a decision on Friday. Rose will recommend sanctions after additional briefs are filed by each party recommending what discipline should be imposed. Sanctions would have to be approved by the Supreme Judicial Court. 

In his decision, which goes into extensive detail about the case, Rose listed several pieces of evidence Kaczmarek and Verner discovered but did not disclose – for example, mental health worksheets on which Farak wrote statements indicating that she likely used drugs at work years earlier than law enforcement initially suspected.  

Much of Rose’s decision focuses on Kaczmarek’s behavior. The decision says Kaczmarek didn’t follow up on information about Farak’s possible use of Oxycodone or light cocaine, which did not fit into the model of other Farak drug use. Kaczmarek did not review evidence that was stored in a Springfield evidence room.  Rose concluded that Kaczmarek failed to disclose pieces of information and misled others in the attorney general’s office as to what had been disclosed. 

Rose wrote, “Not only did Kaczmarek fail to disclose information…she intentionally misrepresented the evidence she had, and worked to actively shut down inquiry and deflect zealous work by Farak defendants’ counsel who were doing their jobs by requesting evidence of Farak’s misconduct.” The review found that Kaczmarek “misled others in her office, failed to correct [state police detective Joseph] Ballou’s inaccurate and misleading statements, and avoided learning anything more about the extent of Farak’s misconduct than was needed to obtain an indictment.” 

Verner was cleared of ten of twelve charges, but was found to have wrongfully failed to disclose material and failed to diligently supervised Kaczmarek.

Rose’s decision found that Foster generally relied on representations made by Kaczmarek regarding what material had been turned over, but did not question Kaczmarek or review files herself. During a hearing, Foster failed to adequately prepare with the State Police detective investigating the case or review his file, and was unprepared to answer the judge’s questions about what material was protected and what had been turned over, the decision said.  

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

At one point a judge admonished Foster, saying it would be helpful to him “if you actually looked at the information you were talking about other than making bold pronouncements about them being privileged or the content of them.” 

Correction: This story was updated to correct the description of wrongdoing by Verner.