AP file photoDeborah Madden

AP file photoDeborah Madden

Bail granted to ex-lab tech accused of stealing drugs from SF crime lab

A former San Francisco Police Department laboratory technician who is accused of obtaining cocaine by subterfuge was granted bail on a $25,000 bond at a hearing in federal court in The City on Friday.

Deborah Madden, 61, of San Mateo, was allowed by U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte to remain free on an unsecured $25,000 personal bond while awaiting her not-yet-scheduled trial.

Laporte also ordered Madden to refrain from taking alcohol or non-prescription drugs and to submit to any drug and alcohol testing and counseling that may be required by the court's pretrial services department.

At a second court hearing Friday, Madden made her first appearance before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, the trial judge assigned to the case.

At the request of prosecutors and defense attorneys, Illston deferred setting a trial date in order to give Madden's attorney, Paul DeMeester, time to study prosecution evidence and consider possible pretrial motions.

The judge scheduled a status conference for Feb. 3.

Madden, who retired from the civilian job in late 2009, was at the center of a scandal at the troubled laboratory last year.

Her alleged theft of small amounts of cocaine from the lab's drug analysis unit, together with other problems, led to the closure of the facility and to prosecutors' dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases.

Madden admitted to police investigators in February 2010 that she took small amounts of cocaine spilled from evidence on five occasions between October and December 2009, according to a public transcript of her interview
with the investigators.

But Madden was never prosecuted in the state court system for the alleged theft. The state attorney general's office announced late last year that it would not file charges because of insufficient evidence.

Last week, Madden was indicted by a federal grand jury on a U.S. criminal charge of violating the U.S. Controlled Substances Act by obtaining cocaine by means of fraud, deception or subterfuge.

She pleaded not guilty to the charge Wednesday.

Outside of court Friday, DeMeester said, “It's too early to tell” what pretrial motions he will file, but said he is considering a request for dismissal of the indictment on the ground that the charge is not within Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce.

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