FORMER WASHINGTON State Patrol forensic chemist Michael R. Hoover made an appearance at the Snohomish County Courthouse last Friday, facing misdemeanor charges of tampering with evidence and official misconduct. The charges stem from allegations Hoover pilfered and ingested heroin from evidence sent to the patrol's Marysville lab for testing (see "Crime lab junkie?" SW, January 25).
The 51-year-old Hoover, whose competency and expertise were pivotal in getting drug convictions in seven Western Washington counties, faces up to a year in jail if convicted. He is scheduled to go to trial on June 18, but his lawyer hinted at a plea bargain last week.
Hoover resigned from his job in March following an investigation by the patrol sparked by the concerns of co-workers about his insistence on processing heroin cases, court documents indicate. Hoover allegedly revealed to investigators, the documents continue, that he began using heroin to alleviate his chronic back pain.
Since his resignation, prosecutors and public defenders in Jefferson, Whatcom, Snohomish, Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Clallam counties have been working overtime sifting through hundreds of pending and past cases to determine if Hoover's alleged tampering impacted them. Initially, most prosecutors were dismissing any case with Hoover's name attached to it. However, in recent weeks prosecutors have been going forward with cases in which they believe charges would stick despite Hoover's involvement.
Although the fallout varies widely—from one case in Clallam County and a handful in Jefferson and San Juan counties to a few dozen dismissals in Snohomish County—cases continue to surface.
Snohomish County hasn't finished its work yet, and early estimates put the number of cases Hoover's alleged tampering could affect at a few hundred. As of last week, prosecutor Jim Townsend said he was unaware of how many cases have been impacted.
Whatcom County has wrapped up its work, and though the impact was minimal, prosecutor David McEachran says his department was shocked that something like this could have happened.
"It's like having someone on your team running the wrong way, knocking you down from behind," McEachran says. "It created a terrible mess for all counties involved."