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In this March 21, 2018 photo, Brian Gestring, former director of the Forensic Science Office for DCJS, and a member of the New York State Forensic Science Commission, takes part in a commission meeting in Albany, N.Y. (Photo: Paul Buckowski/The Albany Times Union via AP)

The recently-fired director of forensic science at the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services has publicly alleged that three “catastrophic” DNA hit notification failures and a falsified certification document on a fourth case showcase problems with the state’s database system.

Brian Gestring, who was a member of the New York Commission on Forensic Science, wrote in a letter dated June 1 that his former employer at the Office of Forensic Science (OFS) should be put under the microscope, because of gaps in oversight.

“It is clear that all the components of the Rube Goldberg machine that is the New York State DNA databank must have significant oversight and must be transparent to avoid catastrophe,” writes Gestring in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Forensic Magazine.

Gestring was the head of OFS until March, when he was terminated following allegations of inappropriate behavior including sexual harassment, according to The New York Daily News and The Albany Times-Union. (Those allegations remain disputed.)

Gestring claims in his letter that while the New York State Police Databank Laboratory does the analytical work and operates the physical aspects of the science, it is the role of OFS to ensure the accurate identification from the samples and offenders.

The three hit notification failures were “catastrophic,” according to Gestring’s letter.

The fourth incident, which was the alleged falsified certification document, was put together by a DNA hit coordinator, he claims—who was suspended and then retired shortly afterward.

Gestring told Forensic Magazine in a brief email the agency is asserting he is no longer a member of the Commission. But he points to precedent and the bylaws of the Commission, which he argues protects his seat at the table, for now. It remains to be seen whether he is still officially considered to be a member of the Commission.

Gestring acknowledges in the June 1 letter that he may not be a member of the state’s Commission for much longer. But he urges the other members to discuss “DCJS DNA nonconformities and OFS’s databank operations.”

The next Commission meeting is scheduled for June 15, this Friday.

The Department of Criminal Justice Services blasted Gestring’s claims, in a statement issued to Forensic Magazine.

“This missive by a disgruntled former employee misrepresents the facts,” according to the statement. “The Division is unaware of any instances in which an incorrect DNA identification has resulted in a wrongful arrest or prosecution.

“Mr. Gestring also fails to mention that DCJS has internal processes in place to identify errors and address them,” the agency added. “It is telling that this individual waited months until after he was fired for inappropriate behavior to raise this non-issue and extol his own virtue.”

The legal complications at DCJS continue to mount. A senior special counsel at the agency who was fired in December filed a federal civil right suit on May 25, alleging she was fired in retaliation for cooperating with an inspector general investigation into the allegations against Gestring. That lawyer, Gina Bianchi, was allowed to return to a position as a staff attorney—but at a salary reduced by some $4,000, according to court documents obtained by Forensic Magazine.

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