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Evidence issues posing problems for New London court cases

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NEW LONDON--Back in May, Fox CT reported on an audit of the New London Police Department’s evidence room which, according to New London Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard, contained “several inconsistencies.”

Those inconsistencies now appear to be causing problems for several New London court cases.

The audit stems from a March 28 incident at an apartment on Russell Street, which is owned by former New London Evidence Officer Russell MacDonald. MacDonald was placed on paid administrative leave effective March 29, and resigned from his position on August 13.

New London attorney Anthony Basilica tells Fox CT that, to date, he has received nearly a dozen letters from New London State's Attorney Michael Regan stating that the integrity of evidence seized in specific cases may have been compromised.

"All of the letters that I have received and that other attorneys have received involve drugs," said Basilica.

Basilica estimated that "almost every lawyer who has a significant criminal practice in New London County has probably gotten at least one letter."

And Basilica believes the process of combing back through evidence is quite involved.

"Having to go back and look at the evidence itself, individually in each case, having to match it with what was seized, what the reports say -- That alone, you're talking about pulling out every file, every drug case that came along in the course of an extended period of time," said Basilica. "And then matching up the evidence - the individual evidence that was seized - to the case, and to determine whether or not it had been compromised, it's a fairly complex and lengthy process."

Basilica said that some of the letters pertained to cases currently moving through the courts. Other cases, he said, ended in plea deals in which the evidence was never examined. Those cases must now be reopened.

He believes there are some cases in which people may be wrongly serving time in jail because it may have been unknown that evidence was compromised at the time of sentencing.

Fox CT obtained court transcripts from one case in which the state chose not to press narcotics charges because of the "ongoing difficulties within the New London Police Department evidence room."

We reached to New London Police Chief Margaret Ackley on Wednesday, who told us she cannot comment because it is an open investigation.