The woman at the center of the San Francisco Police Department’s crime lab scandal made an appearance today in San Mateo County Superior Court, where she pleaded not guilty to a drug charge.
Deborah Madden, 60, of San Mateo, was arraigned this morning in South San Francisco on one count of cocaine possession. She is out of custody after posting a $10,000 bond.
Madden, a former civilian criminalist at the Police Department’s crime lab, allegedly admitted to police that she had taken small quantities of cocaine from evidence last year. She went on leave in December and retired March 1.
San Francisco police Chief George Gascon ordered the lab’s drug testing unit closed on March 9 pending the results of an investigation. Since then, prosecutors have had to dismiss or temporarily discharge hundreds of drug cases as evidence testing was shifted to outside labs.
San Francisco police serving a search warrant on Madden’s San Mateo home on March 3 found a small amount of cocaine there as well as a firearm, police said, but prosecutors in that county decided not to file a gun possession charge.
Madden’s attorney Paul De Meester said outside of court today that Madden had been “unaware” of the gun in the home.
San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the handgun–which Madden would have been prohibited from possessing due to a May 2008 misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence–was found in her sewing box.
“She told the detectives that she had forgotten that she had it, and they found her to be credible on that,” Wagstaffe said. He added that she had already turned in two other guns at the time of her conviction.
De Meester suggested that Madden was not the cause of the Police Department’s crime lab issues.
“My client had nothing to do with the problems that have historically existed at the crime lab, and continue to exist,” he said.
He noted two separate audits that found a series of problems at the lab’s drug testing unit, including poor record keeping, shoddy conditions and issues with the storage and tracking of drug evidence.
De Meester said Madden “should not be blamed for the current state of affairs” at the lab.
Madden, who has not been charged by San Francisco prosecutors in connection with the crime lab problems, was ordered to return to San Mateo County Superior Court on May 18.
If convicted on the drug possession charge, Madden is eligible for drug treatment rather than jail, Wagstaffe said.