S.F. Examiner file photoDeborah Madden

Deborah Madden gets probation and home confinement in crime lab cocaine case

A former police crime laboratory technician avoided a prison sentence Friday when a federal judge sentenced her to one year of home confinement and five years of probation for misdemeanor cocaine possession.

Deborah Madden, 63, of San Mateo told U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, “I'm not proud of the way I ended my career. I ended it in a shameful way. I apologize to the people of San Francisco and to the criminal justice system.”

Illston also ordered Madden to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 300 hours of community service, but rejected prosecutors' request for a one-year prison sentence, the maximum possible for the conviction.

“What we have here is a misdemeanor possession case,” the judge said.

Madden pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor count in March after two trials in Illston's court on a more serious felony charge of obtaining cocaine by deception or fraud ended in mistrials with hung juries in 2012 and January of this year.

Madden did not testify at the federal trials, but in a taped interview used as evidence, she admitted to police investigators in 2010 that she took trace amounts of cocaine from her office in late 2009 and said she had been trying to control an alcohol problem.

In her written plea agreement, she admitted she “knowingly possessed cocaine outside the scope of my employment” within San Francisco on Dec. 3, 2009, but did not say where she possessed the drug.

Madden's actions and other problems at the laboratory led to the temporary closure of the drug analysis unit and the district attorney's dismissal of hundreds of criminal cases that depended on evidence analyzed there.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Caputo, who said that more 700 cases were dismissed, unsuccessfully argued that that factor and the need for deterrence would justify a prison sentence.

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsCrime labDeborah MaddenSan Francisco Police Department

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