No charges filed against SFPD crime lab tech

San Francisco PD crime lab technician Deborah Madden
December 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The crime lab scandal that rocked San Francisco this year is now over. The former lab technician who stole cocaine evidence and threw hundreds of cases into chaos is off the hook.

Deborah Madden is retired now; she still has a pending felony drug possession charge for a small amount of cocaine detectives say they found inside her home. Her role in one of the biggest San Francisco stories of the year is now a closed case.

The technician at the center of San Francisco's drug lab scandal admitted to investigators she took small amounts of cocaine evidence home with her. More than 600 drug cases were tossed in the fallout. San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon ordered the crime lab shuttered, but the state attorney general is not filing criminal charges against Madden and it is a decision that baffles San Francisco police and public officials.

"This is a case that had a great deal of complexity to it, but we feel very comfortable that Miss Madden was certainly... she committed the acts that were being alleged. I don't want to second guess the prosecution in this case. We're very disappointed," said Gascon.

The decision by state Attorney General Jerry Brown's office was made weeks ago, but Madden's attorney just found out on Thursday.

The attorney general's office said there was not enough evidence to prosecute the veteran lab tech.

"She unfairly became the face of the crime lab problems. It definitely was not an issue with my client. What we've seen is that the crime lab and the San Francisco Police Department had serious problems," said Deborah Madden's attorney Paul Demeester.

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris recused her office from the case in April and asked the state attorney general to investigate. Harris is set to be sworn in as the new attorney general on Monday. The attorney general's office pushed to resolve the Madden investigation before she took over.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi called the decision outrageous.

"This is the kind of situation where the public is going to scratch their head and say, 'Is this a double standard? Is this a situation where a police employee, who admitted to removing drugs from the crime lab, gets off the hook?'" said Adachi.

ABC7 asked the attorney general's office why this nearly month-old decision is just being made public and a spokeswoman said in this case, the agency's duty was only to notify the district attorney's office because that is the agency that requested this outside investigation. Meanwhile, Madden's attorney says she has been on pins and needles waiting to find out her fate.


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