Criminal freed over Mass. lab scandal now fugitive

Posted: 10/04/12 at 12:20 pm EDT      Last Updated: 10/04/12 at 5:49 pm EDT

BOSTON -- A career criminal and convicted rapist whose bail was reduced after a chemist was accused of mishandling drug samples at a state lab failed to show up for a court date and is now a fugitive, authorities said Thursday.

Marcus Pixley was awaiting trial in a 2011 arrest on charges of possession and distribution of crack cocaine and resisting arrest. His lawyer successfully argued this month that his bail should be lowered because the drugs in his case were tested by Annie Dookhan, a chemist charged with obstruction of justice and accused of faking test results, skipping protocols and mixing drug samples at a now-closed state lab.

“We can’t have guys like this running around It's not a good look, obviously and the community has got to come together and help law enforcement track the guy down and put him where he needs to be,” said Rev. Eugene Rivers, a community activist.

The scandal has potentially put thousands of drug cases in jeopardy.

Pixley was released after posting the lower $1,000 bail, but he failed to show up for a scheduled court hearing Wednesday. A Suffolk Superior Court judge issued a warrant for his arrest Thursday.

“This is ridiculous. We’re going to have to carry the burden because of a mistake on the state’s side and I just don’t think it’s right and I have to make sure public safety is number one in the city of Boston,” said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Pixley, 52, has a criminal record dating to 1977, including rape, armed robbery, assault and battery and larceny. He also has eight prior drug convictions.

Prosecutors opposed Pixley's bail reduction, arguing that he was being prosecuted as a habitual offender.

Pixley was arrested in February 2011 after police say he sold a plainclothes Boston officer two bags of crack cocaine.

When additional officers moved in to arrest him, he struggled with them and swallowed a third bag of crack, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley. A fourth bag was recovered from the snow near the struggle, Wark said.

Wark said that because Pixley has three prior convictions for resisting arrest, he was charged as a habitual offender and faces a mandatory 2 1/2-year sentence if convicted.

Pixley's lawyer, Veronica White, said Pixley was indicted on "contaminated evidence."

"That's a serious, serious violation," White said. "The government is trying to hang their hat on some resisting arrest charge, but he has a viable defense against that based on our contention that the officers engaged in excessive force."

Suffolk prosecutors have agreed to reduce bail for some defendants who have challenged the charges based on the allegations against Dookhan but not in the cases of career criminals or defendants facing gun charges.

Dookhan, 34, of Franklin, has pleaded not guilty. The burgeoning investigation into her conduct prompted the shutdown of the lab in August and led to the resignation of the state's public health commissioner. Since the lab closed, more than 20 defendants have had their bail reduced and their sentences put on hold and have been released while their attorneys challenge the charges against them based on Dookhan's conduct.

State police, who took over operation of the lab from the Department of Public Health on July 1, have said Dookhan tested more than 60,000 samples covering 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab.

State officials said they have identified more than 1,100 defendants serving time in county jails or state prisons based on samples tested by Dookhan. It is unclear how many samples might have been tainted.

Menino is now looking to congress for money and help.

“The courts have to get stronger on those issues and we have to make sure we’re able to monitor guys like him,” said Menino.

When they do find Pixley he will be held without bail, but officials said this is just the tip of the iceberg and there will be more people out there like him because of the Jamaica Plain lab scandal.

(Copyright (c) 2012 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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