Allegheny County crime lab employee on leave amid probe

"Right now, we're concerned about the integrity of these approximately 600 cases to ensure these people got a fair trial," he said. "We have an ethical obligation to look at all of these and notify the [defense.] "Even if we don't think there's a problem, we still have to work the files."

March 29, 2017

Allegheny County crime lab employee on leave amid probe March 29, 2017 12:00 AM By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette The Allegheny County District Attorney's office will review nearly 600 cases after a chemist in the drug section of the Medical Examiner's office crime lab came under investigation last month for possible drug use. The chemist, Matthew Ieraci, has been on leave from the lab since Feb. 27. 

That day, when he arrived at work, supervisors suspected he was under the influence of some substance. He was ordered to have a drug and alcohol test, and the results came back positive. Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said she could not comment as it is a personnel matter, but she did confirm there is an ongoing county police investigation. 

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said on Tuesday that Mr. Ieraci, who has worked at the lab since February 2014, has worked on about 575 cases in his time there -— although not all of those were prosecuted. Mr. Zappala has assigned two people from his office to work with the county to review the cases.

 "Right now, we're concerned about the integrity of these approximately 600 cases to ensure these people got a fair trial," he said. "We have an ethical obligation to look at all of these and notify the [defense.] "Even if we don't think there's a problem, we still have to work the files." 

A complicating factor to determine if any crimes were committed, Mr. Zappala said, will be that the lab does not keep drug evidence forever. Typically, once a criminal case has concluded, the prosecution gets a court order to have the drugs destroyed. "It's premature, but there is evidence county police has collected that could possibly lead to charges like theft and drug charges," Mr. Zappala said.

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