NJ Lab Tech Caught Faking Evidence, Could Lead to Overturning of Bergen County Drug Convictions
There is fear among NJ authorities and law enforcement that thousands of earlier criminal convictions in Bergen County and elsewhere in New Jersey could be wiped out after a lab tech with the NJ State Police admitted to faking evidence in a drug case.
Kamalkant Shah was a lab technician for the NJ State Police North Regional Lab Drug Unit in Little Falls, New Jersey. Shah has been accused of “dry labbing,” a way of faking data, on a substance that was believed to be marijuana.
NJ authorities first learned of the deception on December 10, 2015, which led to them opening an investigation into Shah. While officials conducted the investigation and gathered evidence, NJ authorities removed Shah from laboratory work with the police. Around one month later, on January 12, 2016, Shah was formally suspended without pay.
On February 22, Ellie Honig, the director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, sent a letter to several NJ county prosecutors’ offices and told local prosecutors that Shah had “failed to appropriately conduct laboratory analyses in a drug case.” Honig pointed to evidence showing that Shah was caught “recording an anticipated result without properly conducting the analysis.”
Moreover, Honig instructed New Jersey prosecutors to disclose this information to criminal defense lawyers in open drug crime cases.
Another memo, sent on February 29 from NJ Deputy Public Defender Judy Fallon to NJ Public Defender Joseph Krakora, also detailed the allegations against Shah. The memo stated that law enforcement accused Shah of making up important data in the marijuana possession case. The NJ deputy public defender went further and indicated that Shah had been “observed writing ‘test results’ for suspected marijuana that was never tested.”
On March 2, 2016, the NJ Municipal Court Law Update Service posted a copy of New Jersey Deputy Public Defender’s memo on its website.
Some observers and law enforcement officials believe that Shah’s deception could have serious consequences for the New Jersey criminal justice system. For example, the criminal convictions in all of the cases that Shah was a part of while working for the New Jersey State Police could now be in jeopardy. Since he began his employment with the NJ police in 2005, Shaw served as a lab tech on 7,827 criminal cases. Investigators were able to find only one instance of misconduct by Shah, but it could still end up contaminating all of the criminal cases he worked on. These cases were adjudicated in courtrooms throughout NJ, including Bergen County, Essex County, Morris County, and Passaic County. In Passaic County, there are more than 2,100 potentially tainted cases that could be affected by the recent revelations about Shah.
New Jersey prosecutors said that Shah, who recently retired from his government job, may not have to face criminal charges.
The New Jersey State Police is actively working with Bergen County prosecutors as NJ authorities attempt to figure out how to best handle any pending drug crime cases in Bergen County.
For more information about this developing case, go to the NJ.com article, “Lab Tech Allegedly Faked Result in Drug Case; 7,827 Criminal Cases Now in Question.”