Rolando Penate From 'How To Fix A Drug Scandal' Was Recently Arrested Again

How To Fix A Drug Scandal shows how Rolando Penate's case unfolded.

Since the arrests of Massachusetts drug lab chemists Annie Dookhan and Sonja Farak in 2012 and 2013, respectively, nearly 38,000 of the state's drug convictions have been retroactively dismissed. That includes the case of Rolando Penate...but by the time he was released from prison in 2017, he had already served over five years. As a result, he's still in the middle of a $5.7 million civil lawsuit against the Massachusetts Attorney General's office and the city of Springfield.

As chronicled in Netflix's How to Fix a Drug Scandal, Penate is a refugee from Cuba who came to the United States in 1980. He was arrested in 2011 after allegedly selling heroin to an undercover officer. Farak, who admitted to stealing and using drugs from the lab between 2004 and her 2013 arrest, was the chemist who analyzed his case. However, because the judge decided to reconsider only the cases Farak worked on from July 2012 and onward, Penate's attorney, Luke Ryan, wasn't able to bring up Farak's potential mishandling of evidence in Penate's December 2013 hearing. As a result, Penate got a seven year prison sentence for a $20 bag of heroin. "It just seemed incredibly excessive," Ryan said.

It was only after it was revealed that Farak was heavily "impaired at work" the day that she tested and signed off on Penate's drug evidence that a judge dismissed the charges against Penate "with prejudice." His subsequent lawsuit seeks damages for the "great pain of mind and body" he suffered due to his conviction.

According to CourtHouseNews.com, the suit is still ongoing as of November 2019. The judges told Ryan that the court could reject Penate's federal claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, but they might have "somewhat better luck" with the state-law claims in the lower courts. Potentially complicating this matter, though, is the fact that Penate was arrested again in October 2019. Per Western Mass News, Springfield police were arresting Aurelio Duclerc for cocaine and ammunitions possession when they "saw 64-year-old Roland Penate in the backyard" and took him into custody. Penate was charged with possession with intent to distribute drugs. Currently, it's unclear where Penante is now, or if Ryan succeeded in getting him released.