Pubdate: Fri, 09 Feb 2001
Source: Herald, The (WA)
Copyright: 2001 The Daily Herald Co.
Contact:  P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA   98206-0930
Fax: (425) 339-3435
Author: Scott North, Herald writer


Former State Patrol Worker Charged With Pilfering Heroin From Crime Lab

A Washington State Patrol chemist pleaded innocent Thursday to charges that 
he pilfered heroin that was sent to his lab after being seized by police, 
but the man expects to admit his wrongdoing soon, his attorney said.

Michael R. Hoover, 51, of Edmonds entered the plea during a brief hearing 
in Snohomish County Superior Court. Judge Gerald Knight scheduled trial for 
April 13. The chemist and his attorney, Steve Garvey of Everett, swiftly 
left the courthouse, slipping away unnoticed by television news crews that 
had gathered to cover the hearing.

Prosecutors charged Hoover with tampering with physical evidence and 
official misconduct after he allegedly admitted he had been ingesting 
heroin for several months to ease his back pain, according to court papers.

Reached at his office after the hearing, Garvey said he has been discussing 
the case with prosecutors and expects Hoover soon will plead guilty to the 
misconduct charge, although questions remain over whether his client's 
actions meet the legal definition of tampering with evidence.

Both charges are gross misdemeanors and carry a maximum punishment of 12 
months in jail.

Hoover is on leave from his job at the State Patrol's crime lab in 
Marysville, but he expects to resign soon, Garvey added.

The chemist's alleged misconduct is affecting drug cases in seven Western 
Washington counties, and up to 200 dismissals are expected in Snohomish 
County alone, according to prosecutors.

That's a deep disappointment to Hoover, who has spent his professional 
career working as a forensic chemist, first in California, and for the past 
11 years in Washington, Garvey said.

"He is really upset that this is casting the State Patrol crime lab in a 
negative light," the attorney said.

The investigation began after co-workers became concerned about Hoover's 
insistence on handling heroin cases. Patrol detectives installed a hidden 
camera near his work area and say they documented him repeatedly taking 
heroin from evidence that had been sent to the crime lab.

When confronted with the tapes Dec. 22, Hoover allegedly told detectives 
that he hadn't intended to begin using heroin, but accidentally sniffed 
concentrated, crystalline dust left over from an evidence test. He said 
there was immediate relief from his back pain, and he regularly began 
sniffing small amounts of heroin that he'd purified in the laboratory, 
documents show.

Garvey said he has encountered Hoover as a witness in drug cases, as a 
defense attorney and while working as a deputy prosecutor. The chemist had 
a reputation for honesty, and when word surfaced about his alleged drug 
problem "you couldn't have picked anybody that would have shocked the legal 
community more," he said.

His client knows that the charges are just the first step in what likely 
will be a long legal odyssey, as attorneys for people charged or convicted 
of drug offenses seek to turn Hoover's troubles to their advantage, Garvey 

Hoover's alleged mishandling of drugs raises questions for cases where he 
had access to evidence. The crime lab where he worked is used to process 
evidence from Snohomish, Island, Skagit, San Juan, Whatcom, Jefferson and 
Clallam counties.
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