From lab scandal to pool death, a statie’s sad story
Is ex-State Police Capt. James J. Coughlin #1818 ready for his close-up Wednesday morning at Dedham District Court?
Coughlin has been living large on his State Police pension of $131,961 a year.
But now he finds out if he will be charged with misdemeanor furnishing of alcohol and reckless endangerment of a child in the wake of the death of a 17-year-old Dedham teen who was found at the bottom of a pool in Coughlin’s backyard last month.
This is a big story — a kid dying after a late-night high school graduation party held at a politically wired ex-state cop’s house. It’s quite sad, especially that nobody at the party apparently noticed what was going on.
But last month’s tragedy wasn’t the first time that something very bad has happened right under Coughlin’s nose and he had no idea what was happening.
In his day, Coughlin was the Inspector Clouseau of the State Police. Except that Clouseau suspected everyone and he suspected no one. Coughlin just suspected … no one.
Does the name Sonja Farak ring a bell? She was the drug-addicted chemist for the state Department of Public Health who snorted and ingested much of the criminal evidence that the cops brought to her laboratory in Amherst to be tested.
It quickly became clear that much of the evidence she handled — like that of her fellow DPH hack Annie Dookhan in Jamaica Plain – had been tampered with. So the hacks in state government desperately tried to cover up the DPH corruption in order to keep everyone that had been wrongfully convicted (most of them people of color) in prison.
So what if 65,000 or so drug tests had to be tossed out because of the rampant corruption?
(The DPH is the same state agency, by the way, that now handles COVID statistics, which explains why one day there were 9,018 deaths at nursing homes, and the next day the number dropped to 5,500 — DPH has always been good at pulling statistics out of thin air.)
Anyway, when the stench from Farak’s drug binge was so great it could no longer be swept under the rug, an “investigation” was ordered up.
Guess who was picked from the State Police to round up the usual suspects?
You guessed it, Capt. Coughlin, along with his buddy, Detective Capt. Paul L’Italien, now retired with a pension of $128,267.
They had access to everything Farak had done and this was their classic MSP report on the massive crime wave and resultant cover-up:
“We find no merit in any of the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct or obstruction of justice.”
Even by MSP standards, it was a disgrace. L’Italien retired two days after turning in the whitewash in January 2016.
Netflix recently did a great documentary about the DPH scandal. They interviewed Maura Healey, the AG, who knows something about covering up Farak’s misdeeds. At one point, Healey’s office filed a “Motion to Impound Grand Jury Materials and Report.”
Then Healey filed a motion to impound the first motion to impound the report. You think she understood there was a big, big problem?
When interviewed by Netflix, Healey immediately threw Coughlin under the bus.
“It wasn’t the kind of work product that we were expecting um and it wasn’t high quality.”
Which is an understatement.
Next, Superior Court Judge Richard Carey threw out a number of convictions based on Farak’s fabricated DPH evidence.
This is how Judge Richard Carey summed up the same evidence that Coughlin described as a big fat nothingburger:
“Intentional, repeated, prolonged and deceptive withholding of evidence from defendants … a depth of deceptiveness that constitutes a fraud upon the court.”
A fraud upon the court. But Coughlin saw nothing.
Here’s an example of what Coughlin turned a blind eye to. Farak got a jar of 51 white Oxycodones — the gold standard of opioids — from the Springfield PD. A few weeks later, the junkie DPH chemist returned the same jar, with 61 different pills of assorted colors.
Even the brain-dead State Police could sense something was amiss. Another trooper alerted an assistant AG, Anne Kaczmarek, who responded about Farak’s drug addiction:
“Please don’t let this get more complicated than we thought. If she was suffering from back injury, maybe she took the oxies.”
Coughlin saw no problem with that statement. But when the misconduct by the prosecutors reached the Supreme Judicial Court, they described it as “so intentional and so egregious.”
A week ago, a hearing officer of the Board of Bar Overseers found the three former assistant attorneys general guilty of misconduct, including failure to disclose exculpatory evidence to defendants.
Yet, like Sgt. Schultz, Coughlin saw nothing. He knew nothing.
Coughlin just did what was expected of him. He comes from a large hack family. His brother Robert was a time-serving stooge in the legislature who in 2008 paid a $10,000 fine to the State Ethics Commission.
James Coughlin retired in 2017 and then ran for sheriff of Norfolk County last year.
He grabbed contributions from assorted State House hacks like ex-Rep. Brian Dempsey, DWI-Haverhill. His fellow millionaire troopers were also generous, including Leigha Genduso’s dear friend former Lt. Col. Dan Risteen ($161,208 annual pension), now employed by the local Teamsters, as well as ex-Major Chip Coletta ($116,506), now Tufts University chief of police.
Somehow, though, the county electorate smelled a rat, and Coughlin finished third in the Democrat primary.
And now Wednesday morning, the captain goes back to court. What’s his defense going to be? That he saw nothing?
If that is indeed Coughlin’s defense, it won’t be the first time. Just ask Sonja Farak.