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FDLE Lab Investigation
Tue March 18, 2014
Pensacola Police, Escambia, And Santa Rosa Sheriff's Indicated By Problems In Local Drug Labs
The investigation continues into the case of an ex-FDLE lab supervisor in Pensacola, accused of tampering with evidence connected to drug cases.
Thirty-two-year-old Joseph Graves was arrested last month and charged with possession or trafficking in illegal drugs; evidence tampering, and grand theft.
It’s believed Graves replaced confiscated prescription pain pills with over-the-counter medications while processing drug cases. As a crime lab analyst, Graves had worked nearly 2,600 cases for 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties, including Escambia and Santa Rosa since 2005.
One of the law enforcement agencies said to be effected is the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. And now a new report by the Pensacola Independent News online says the Pensacola Police Department “also has a problem and a letter will be issued shortly by the State Attorney’s office.”
“The Pensacola Police Department does not have any problems with their evidence lab that I’m aware of,” said State Attorney Bill Eddins. “What’s happened is, in our continuing investigation of matters relating to Joseph Graves, it’s been our responsibility to review many of the cases that he did the analysis on to see if any of the drugs have been tampered with. And we have engaged in that process with the Pensacola Police Department.”
Pensacola Police Chief Chip Simmons is not commenting. Eddins says FDLE is reviewing thousands of cases in which Joseph Graves was involved, and a decision on additional charges against him is forthcoming.
Pensacola attorney Barry Beroset is among the criminal defense lawyers closely watching the investigation, in case there emerges some legal ammunition they can use on behalf of their clients.
“We’re looking at the evidence that’s submitted to the lab, whether or not it’s logged in properly, the chain of custody,” Beroset said. “Who handled the property, whether or not other people handled the property, whether or not other people besides Mr. Graves are culpable. We’re also looking at how the evidence is handled at the Sheriff’s Department.”
Beroset says if there are pending cases in which the evidence handled by the Pensacola FDLE lab was lost or taken, then it’s possible the prosecution’s case could be weakened to the extent that the defendant could go free. State Attorney Bill Eddins concedes there have been some cases that have been dismissed because of the Graves investigation, but relatively few.
Joseph Graves entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment last month, and is free on bond. The case’s timeline is expected to be lengthy; discovery, depositions and other pre-trial activities could take up to a year.
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