Thursday, December 8, 2022

Years of Wilmington drug cases facing review, potential dismissal after police fire ‘untruthful’ drug lab employee

According to the District Attorney, a crime-lab employee misled his employers, telling them he had calibrated important drug-testing equipment when he had not. The result could be an untold number of drug cases facing scrutiny by both the DA's office and defense attorneys.

A chemist for the Wilmington Police Department has been fired leaving the question as to what will happen to the cases he worked on (Port City Daily/File)
A chemist for the Wilmington Police Department has been fired leaving the question as to what will happen to the cases he worked on (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — An unknown number of drug-related cases – and convictions – stemming from arrests made by the Wilmington Police Department could be challenged after an employee responsible for testing for controlled substances was fired.

“An internal affairs investigation conducted by the Wilmington Police Department [WPD] has resulted in the termination of a police chemist; 32-year-old, William Peltzer was terminated on January 25th due to multiple departmental violations including; property and evidence control, member obligations, on-duty performance and standard of conduct. Peltzer had been the with agency since August of 2015,” WPD spokeswoman Linda Thompson said.

District Attorney Ben David sent a letter to members of the New Hanover County Defense Bar notifying them of the recent termination due to what he called “untruthfulness” on Peltzer’s part.

“During the three and a half years prior, while he was employed with WPD, Mr. Peltzer’s responsibility in that agency was to test substances to determine whether or not they were illegal narcotics, and it appears that on several occasions Mr. Peltzer represented to his supervisors that he had properly checked the calibration of the equipment that he used for this purpose when in fact he knew that he had not,” David said.

The District Attorney is reviewing all cases that Peltzer was involved in, both current and previously disposed in order to “determine what needs to be done in terms of dismissals, motions for appropriate relief, or re-testing.”

According to Thompson, the investigation began after an internal audit last month after noticing paperwork irregularities; no criminal wrongdoing was found, she said.

“While there is no evidence that any of the cases were compromised we realize that the actions of this chemist called the integrity of our process into question and that is unacceptable”,  Chief of Police Ralph Evangelous said. “To ensure the integrity of current and future drug testing we are working with the District Attorney’s Office.”

It is unclear how many cases will be called into question. In other cases where lab technicians have been called into question, the ramifications have been far reaching. In October of last year in Massachusetts, the state Supreme Court dismissed thousands of drug convictions due to misconduct by a lab chemist.

“The state’s highest court has ordered thousands of drug convictions that hinged on drug tests at a state lab to be dismissed due to ‘intentional’ and ‘egregious’ misconduct by one of the lab’s chemists and two former assistant attorneys general,” according to the Boston Herald.


Michael Praats can be reached at Michael.p@Localvoicemedia.com

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