A former employee of the state’s Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory has been sentenced to spend two years in prison for stealing drug samples from work.


Stephen Clark Palmer, 54, was given a sentence of six years in prison with four suspended by Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Spaan. Palmer pleaded guilty in January to theft, tampering with physical evidence, misconduct involving a controlled substance and official misconduct.


The District Attorney’s office pushed for a harsher sentence because of Palmer’s position within the justice system, according to Chief Assistant Attorney General Robert Henderson with the Office of Special Prosecutions.


“The citizens of the State of Alaska placed an incredible responsibility on him. Palmer abused that responsibility and in doing so cost the state tens of thousands of dollars and called into question numerous criminal convictions,” Henderson wrote in the sentencing memorandum, urging Spaan to issue the maximum total sentence of 15 years.


Henderson says Palmer expressed remorse at the sentencing hearing, apologizing to friends and family, as well as the attending public. Palmer has also agreed to pay $38,428.94 in compensation to the lab to replace and re-test pure drug standards he partially replaced with inositol, a chemical commonly used to lower the purity, or “cut,” drugs.


New protocols have been put in place at the lab to prevent future cases of drug theft, according to the lab’s manager Orin Dym.


Behind three locked doors in the state’s crime lab are shelves filled with criminal drug evidence analyzed by Palmer. Palmer worked on about 2,000 cases during his 20 years at the lab. Of those, 120 have been sent back. Dym says they will now be kept under lock and key in case they need to be re-examined.


“My understanding is Mr. Palmer took from cases, he did not add to them,” Dym said. “I would say he was a very good, competent scientist, but he also had a drug addiction.”


Dym says he hopes the crime lab will quickly be able to regain the trust of Alaskans and prevent drug theft by a member of his team from ever happening again.


“The sentence the court today imposed brings to a close a chapter in this unfortunate story,” Dym said in a statement on the sentencing. “I want the people of the State of Alaska to know that I – as well as the balance of the senior management of the Department of Public Safety, and the staff of the crime laboratory- am committed to having our laboratory continue to be a model of quality forensics.”