Despite lab scandal, East Boston man convicted in cat killing won’t be released

The drug lab scandal won’t help a former East Boston man, convicted in 2007 for killing a cat and attacking a friend with a hot frying pan, get out of state prison, a Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled today.

In the latest in a series of court hearings where drug defendants are hoping to get their sentences put on hold, a lawyer for Luigi Epifania asked Superior Court Judge Christine McEvoy to rule that Epifania’s arrest during a suspected drug deal in 2010 should not be considered a probation violation, which triggered further imprisonment for the 29-year-old man.

But McEvoy ruled that even if the suspected heroin and OxyContin pills at the center of the drug investigation of Epifania cannot be used as evidence because of the drug lab scandal, his imprisonment for violating probation would remain in effect.

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The cases of Epifania and accused murderer Anthony Thames were highlighted today by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, who has been irked by comments by some defense attorneys describing their clients as low-level dealers.

“What we’ve been saying for a long time is that these defendants who are in state prison …a re particularly dangerous, are in prison for a reason,’’ he told reporters at the Suffolk County courthouse today. “Almost all of them have some level of violence on their records.’’

Meanwhile, Thames’s drug case was not dealt with by McEvoy today. Because Thames is not going to be set free his case was not a top priority for review.

Luigi Epifania (2007 Boston police photo)

Thames will remain behind bars serving a five-year drug sentence while he also awaits trial for the Aug. 6, 2011, shooting of 33-year-old Raymond Lamar in Boston’s South End. Thames was the subject of a manhunt that ended in a trailer park in Conroe, Texas, in late September 2011.

He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and is being held without bail on that charge.

McEvoy has been specially assigned to hear criminal cases with actual — or suspected — ties to former state chemist Annie Dookhan, who allegedly tampered with drug evidence during her nine-year career at the Department of Public Health at the now-closed state drug lab in Jamaica Plain.

Dookhan has pleaded not guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and to falsifying her academic record. She is free on $10,000 cash bail. Authorities fear she may have tainted 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 cases, most of them in Suffolk County. The scandal has thrown the criminal justice system into turmoil and led to a parade of people being released to the streets who were accused of or convicted of drug crimes.