As DA dismisses Farak cases, Dookhan defendant laments lingering drug charge

Norfolk County DA Michael Morrissey is dismissing 200 cases connected to a disgraced drug chemist. One man wronged by yet another chemist, however, says he still hasn't seen justice.

A graphic shows William Cordero in the foreground with the Hinton Drug lab, where Annie Dookhan worked as a chemist in the background. (Graphic by Dakota Antelman)

Norfolk County DA Michael Morrissey plans to dismiss 200 new cases connected to Sonja Farak, one of two disgraced former chemists behind major Mass. drug lab scandals in 2012 and 2013, WBUR reported, this week.

The South End’s William Cordero wants his own drug conviction dismissed for its connection to that other chemist Annie Dookhan. It, of course, isn’t on this new list, however. So, Cordero is frustrated.

“They should have never let us [take plea deals],” he said on behalf of all the people with case files tainted by these incidents. “They should have dismissed everybody's cases.”

In Massachusetts, all the substances police seize and suspect to contain illicit drugs get funneled through labs where chemists then run tests to confirm or deny police accusations. Chemists sign reports of their findings and often testify at trials as expert witnesses for prosecutors.

In 2012, though, news broke that one chemist named Annie Dookhan hadn’t actually been testing her drug samples, fabricating test results to improve her image of productivity.

A year later, at a different lab, another chemist, Sonja Farak, was found to have become addicted to drugs she stole from her facility. She worked while high. She testified in various trials while high.

These scandals prompted calls for a mass dismissal of cases.

But even though Cordero’s was one of those cases tested by that first chemist, Dookhan, his conviction stuck on his record.

Cordero says he did deal drugs for decades in and around the South End. He was arrested multiple times before he got caught for the last time in 2011.

“I never said I was a saint,” Cordero explained, confronting his past. “I always admit to my actions, of course.”

Regardless, he said had brief faith in the system prosecuting him after the drug lab scandal broke.

After losing trust in Annie Dookhan’s credibility, after all, the state suddenly had no proof Cordero was actually selling drugs.

Instead of seeking dismissal of his case, however, Cordero says he took a plea deal on advice from people involved in his case.

He acquiesced to end a chapter in his life he wanted behind him. He was finally sober, and a recovery program had helped him get a job.

Still, that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten about Dookhan and the courts.

“[Dookhan] was already in jail when I was still going to court,” he said. “She admitted she had screwed up. But I was the one who plead out.”

The struggle continues for Cordero. Indeed, as defendants connected to Sonja Farak, are making progress, according to WBUR’s revelations, Dookhan defendants still with criminal records have fewer options.

Cordero wants his conviction gone. He now simply hopes that, one day, a court will change its mind and take his side.


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