Fla. state attorneys begin reviewing hundreds of drug cases

Review results from FDLE evidence tampering investigation

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - State attorneys covering 35 counties began reviewing hundreds of drug cases Monday, as they deal with the fallout of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement evidence tampering investigation.

Willie Meggs handles six counties for Florida's 2nd Judicial Circuit. He said his office started going back through almost 50 drug-related cases. All of the cases relied on the FDLE's crime lab in Pensacola to test evidence.

Meggs was forced on Friday to ask for an extension on a trial after he discovered some evidence was swapped with over-the-counter pills.

"We've got to go back and look over all of our cases that have been sent to that lab in Pensacola, even the closed ones, the tried ones -- it's a pretty big task," said Meggs.

On Saturday, FDLE said it had relieved a chemist at the Pensacola lab after finding prescription pill evidence was missing. Over-the-counter drugs had been substituted.

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"We have not had a bad apple problem and this individual would have been way down on my list if you had asked me for that," said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

Bailey said this could affect thousands of cases in 35 counties across Florida. Meggs believes this is a byproduct of budget cuts to the department.

"This is a spinoff. It would be much better to have more personal contact with our lab people than we do, but in today's economy we're not able to do that," said Meggs.

With compromised evidence, Meggs and others are unsure how pending or past cases will be resolved, including some that resulted in convictions and are now certain to appeal.

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