June 24, 2004 No charges vs. Hub cops in frame case By Maggie Mulvihill Boston police officers who helped put an innocent man in prison for 6 1/2 years using someone else's fingerprint escaped criminal charges yesterday when a grand jury found insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against them, a source close to the investigation said. Stephan Cowans was freed from prison in January after information surfaced that another person's fingerprint was used to convict Cowans in the shooting of a Boston cop in 1997. Two BPD fingerprint technicians - Officer Dennis Leblanc, who testified at Cowans' trial, and Rosemary McLaughlin - were suspended with pay in April while Attorney General Tom Reilly presented evidence to a grand jury. Reilly's probe centered on whether Boston police framed Cowans for the shooting using another person's fingerprint, sources have said. The Boston Herald reported in May that the fingerprint unit has been a ``dumping ground'' for cops considered unfit for street duty under the last two police commissioners - Paul F. Evans and Francis M. ``Mickey'' Roache. Officers with histories of theft, incompetence, substance abuse and other problems were routinely sent to the unit, which handles some of the most critical evidence used in criminal prosecutions. Those transfers were uncovered during a Boston Herald/Fox 25 investigation into the wrongful convictions of 22 Massachusetts men in the last two decades. Though no criminal charges will be brought against the officers in the Cowans' case, Reilly's investigation has uncovered ``systemic failures of the fingerprinting lab that were uncovered as a result'' of the grand jury investigation, a source close to the probe told the Herald. Those failures will be addressed at a press conference Reilly and BPD Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole plan to hold today. A spokesman for Reilly's office declined comment yesterday. But O'Toole, who referred the Cowans case to Reilly when she was appointed in February, said she has made numerous changes to the unit since she came on board. Forensic consultants were hired to examine the unit's practices and procedures, three officers and two supervisors were added and increased funding for the unit is being sought in the fiscal 2005 state budget. ``Since we first determined that there were problems, we have been working very aggressively to deal with any of the weaknesses that we know exist,'' O'Toole said yesterday, declining to comment on the grand jury investigation. O'Toole said she has made no decisions yet about the job status of Cowans and McLaughlin. Cowans was convicted of shooting Sgt. Detective Gregory Gallagher in the buttocks with his own gun during a scuffle in Egleston Square on May 30, 1997. Gallagher identified Cowans as his assailant at trial. The real shooter has not been found.