State

Analyst in Ripon drug lab case resigns

A Ripon crime lab analyst at the center of an investigation into drug evidence tampering at the lab has resigned, a state Department of Justice spokeswoman said Thursday.

The analyst's name is Hermon Brown, according to four Modesto defense attorneys who spoke on condition of anonymity earlier this month. The state agency would not disclose his name.

Brown had been employed by the Central Valley Crime Lab in Ripon since 2006. He was one of five analysts who tested drug evidence. He could not be reached for comment.

State officials said at least seven methamphetamine samples handled by Brown weighed less than originally reported. They said all of Brown's drug evidence samples are being retested but declined to give further details about the investigation.

The investigation could compromise criminal cases involving evidence Brown handled in five counties — Stanislaus, Merced, San Joaquin, Tuolumne and Calaveras.

In Stanislaus alone, about 2,400 cases are under review.

Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager on Thursday said staff members have reviewed "virtually every single case" currently open and notified defense attorneys of the investigation of Brown. Fladager said her office will begin looking at closed cases next.

She said fewer than five drug cases have been dismissed.

Fladager at first instructed prosecutors to seek gag orders to keep Brown's name private and to inform defense attorneys of the investigation in the privacy of a judge's chambers.

She switched her position after Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden denied a gag order, saying Brown's name should be public unless revealing it posed a "clear and present" threat to the state Justice Department's investigation or to the safety of the analyst.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.

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