Wednesday, April 15, 1987

Crime 'Expert' Admits Lying on Credentials Felony convictions endangered
By Thomas J. Maier and Joshua Quittner

      Ira S. DuBey, a former Suffolk crime lab deputy director who said he has testified as an expert witness in more than 200 trials, pleaded guilty yesterday to three counts of perjury after admitting that he lied about his credentials in 21 Suffolk cases.

    The plea opened the door for appeals that could result in new trials in each of the 21 convictions, most of which were murders, rapes and other violent felonies.

     George Grun of the Suffolk Legal Aid Society, which handled 13 of the cases, said his office would ask the courts to set aside the verdicts in each case in anticipation of appeals; he said he would advise private counsel to file similar motions in the other cases.

   "This doesn't mean every one of these cases will be knocked out," Pierre G. Lundberg, the special assistant district attorney, said in an interview yesterday. Lundberg was appointed to investigate the DuBey case after allegations about DuBey's academic credentials were raised in a recent Newsday series.

  Lundberg said that in some of the cases in which DuBey testified, he was merely "window-dressing. But in other of these cases, his testimony was critical to getting the conviction." Lundberg said that determination could only be made on a case-by-case basis on appeal.

 Under the terms of a plea bargain, DuBey would be spared jail time, probation and a fine if County Court Judge Kenneth K. Rohl approves the deal at sentencing on June 9. He could have received one year in jail and a $10,000 fine.

    DuBey would not comment after a hearing before Rohl in Hauppauge yesterday. But his attorney, James Catterson, disagreed with Lundberg's assessment: "I don't feel that the people of Suffolk have to worry that criminals will go free because of what Mr. DuBey said about his credentials. It should not jeopardize the finality of the convictions."

   As part of a deal worked out between Catterson and Lundberg, DuBey pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of perjury. He had been charged in a complaint yesterday with three felony counts of first-degree perjury for lying about his academic backround during testimony in three homicide trials from 1980 to 1982.

   DuBey agreed to resign from 10 professional clubs and societies, including the American Society of Forensic Sciences, which had begun its own investigation of the allegations, and he agreed to mail transcripts of yesterday's court proceedings to seven of the clubs.

   According to court transcripts, DuBey said he had a bachelor's degree in biology from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master's degree in forensic science from the City University of New York. In reality, DuBey had completed the coursework for a master's degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice but had never completed his thesis, and he took his undergraduate degree at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University.

   DuBey, 35, who now lives in Baltimore, was second-in-command of the crime lab until 1985, when he quit to accept a job as director of the Maryland state crime lab. He resigned under fire from his post last month after a review by the office of the Maryland state police chief. Officials there said his resignation was prompted by reports that he misstated his credentials in Suffolk trials and because the police chief was unhappy with DuBey's management of the Maryland lab.

      In a series of articles last December, Newsday also reported that two top Suffolk prosecutors were warned in late 1983 about questions concerning DuBey's credentials but did not disclose the information to District Attorney Patrick Henry. Following the report, Henry asked State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Stark, presiding judge of the Suffolk criminal courts, to appoint a special prosecutor. Stark later appointed Lundberg, a former judge.

   Yesterday, in an interview, Lundberg said his investigation was continuing. But, he noted, there is no evidence thus far that any prosecutors did anything illegal or improper.

   Henry said the impact of DuBey's lying about his credentials was not yet clear. "If the case turned on the testimony then it could be considered material," Henry said. "It still doesn't mean the case could be overturned. It's up to the judge."

   Catterson compared DuBey's perjury to a person stretching his credentials when he applies for a job. "I think it's part of the accoutrements of expert testimony."

   But Vincent Crispino, chief of the county crime lab, said that since he took over the lab in August, 1985, he has directed the police department to conduct background checks to verify applicants' credentials and recommendations.