Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice talks about what problems...

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice talks about what problems at the Nassau crime lab mean for thousands of drug cases. (Feb. 15, 2011) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A state law enforcement official said in court Thursday that her agency has located a 2008 letter addressed to several Nassau County officials, including District Attorney Kathleen Rice and former police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, about "problems" at the Nassau crime lab.

Valerie Friedlander, senior attorney for the State Division of Criminal Justice Services, testified that the letter was unsigned and there is no record of it being sent in 2008 -- two years before Nassau officials have said they learned of issues related to the lab.

The hearing came after Garden City lawyer Brian Griffin subpoenaed the letter. Griffin represents Erin Marino, whose drunken driving conviction was the first in the county to be overturned based on what Peck said at the time of the overturn was "potentially tainted evidence" at the lab. Nassau County Court Judge George Peck ordered a new trial in March.

Griffin said in court he has a right to have the letter in order to represent Marino in a new trial and in an appeal of Peck's decision by the district attorney.

The crime lab was put on probation for a second time on Dec. 3, 2010. County officials closed the lab's drug-testing unit on Feb. 10 and shut the entire lab on Feb. 18.

State Inspector General Ellen Biben's office objected in court to releasing the letter because she says it could compromise an investigation into failures at the lab. An attorney for Rice said in court the letter shouldn't be released because it is unsigned and there's no proof of it being sent. Peck is expected to announce his decision Tuesday.

Peck, who said in court that other names on the letter included former County Executive Thomas Suozzi and crime lab director James Granelle, was not specific about the contents of the letter except to say it "informed" the recipients of "lab problems."

Friedlander told Peck that the letter, dated April 28, 2008, was recovered on a department computer.

She said the letter appears in the daily log of one of her agency commissioners, but she was not sure which commissioner and could not say for certain whether it had been sent.

An attorney for Rice testified in court that the district attorney did not receive the letter. Mulvey could not be reached for comment, but he has repeatedly said he knew nothing of problems at the crime lab before Dec. 3, 2010.

Suozzi said Thursday that he didn't recall whether he had received such a letter.

Leonard Cohen, a senior attorney for state Inspector General EllenBiben, said he has no problem with the Division of Criminal Justice Services turning the letter over to Griffin in a month, by which time they expect to have concluded their investigation.

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