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Chemist ID'd in FDLE evidence tampering investigation
PENSACOLA - A Pensacola chemist suspected in a massive evidence tampering case has been identified. Joseph Graves resigned today from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He is suspected of stealing evidence in drug cases while working at the state's Pensacola crime lab. Now, authorities are reviewing nearly 2,600 cases Graves handled from throughout the state.
The chemist had been working in a lab at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement building on North Palafox Street in Pensacola. The State Attorney's Office says around a thousand of the cases he worked on were from Northwest Florida Law Enforcement agencies.
"I think it's a disaster for law enforcement," said former Judge Kim Skievaski.
Skievaski's not just any former judge. The criminal defense attorney served for 20 years on the bench, six of them as chief judge of the First Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.
"It could potentially result in a number of cases being overturned," said Skievaski, "We don't know a whole lot at this point in time."
The investigation began more than a week ago when the Escambia County Sheriff's Office discovered prescription pain pills were missing from its evidence room. Investigators then found dozens of cases where prescription pills had been replaced with over-the-counter medications.
The FDLE says each case involving missing pills was handled by Joseph Graves.
When asked if he thinks this is a potentially disastrous situation, State Attorney Bill Eddins said, "I do not believe that it is."
Eddins and our local public defender have different views on the implications of the case.
"The only cases it will affect are the cases where he switched drugs," Eddins said, "[There's] no evidence at this time that he's done anything other than that. There's no evidence of dishonesty at all."
Meanwhile, Public Defender Bruce Miller said, "The extent of the problem, it goes to every case this individual would've been involved in because his credibility is essentially shot and it undermines the credibility of the prosecution."
Graves has hired an attorney. Charges are pending.