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Prosecutor: Eden Prairie cop's lie to trigger 32 case dismissals

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David Brown, chief deputy Hennepin County Attorney
David Brown, chief deputy Hennepin County Attorney announces Friday his office discovered an Eden Prairie police officer, Travis Serafin, lied about a search warrant.
Evan Frost | MPR News

An Eden Prairie police detective's lie about a search warrant in a single drug case will result in 32 cases being dismissed and will let at least one convicted person out of prison, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said Friday.

Chief Deputy Hennepin County Attorney David Brown identified the detective as Travis Serafin. Brown said the dismissals would come in cases where Serafin was a witness in prosecutions that had been charged but not completed as of Sept. 22, 2017, the date he allegedly lied on a drug warrant.

Brown said Hennepin prosecutors have asked the McLeod County Attorney's Office to review Serafin's conduct for possible criminal charges. He noted that the Eden Prairie department has disciplined Serafin.

Brown said in his 30 years as a prosecutor in the county, he's never seen anything like this, calling the situation "devastating."

"The fair trial of a defendant depends upon the truthful testimony of the witnesses. That did not happen here," Brown told reporters. "We feel like we've taken the steps necessary to right the wrongs and return integrity to the system."

The case that triggered the domino effect involved a drug search. Serafin got a warrant for a house as part of a drug investigation. While executing the warrant, officers found a large amount of heroin and some fentanyl in the home of Timothy Holmes, and a much smaller amount of drugs from a car, the  Hennepin County Attorney's Office said in a statement.

The warrant was valid for the house, but not the car. Later, when questions were raised about the search warrant for the car, Serafin allegedly created a doctored warrant for the car using a copy of the house warrant. When it was discovered, the Eden Prairie police chief disciplined Serafin and alerted the Hennepin County Attorney's Office, Brown said.

A subsequent review concluded the "search warrant and testimony were untruthful and not a mistake," the county attorney's office said.

"Detective Serafin's behavior here was wrong and inexcusable," Brown said. "It also is baffling to us because the legal search of the home provided more than enough evidence for our case, and if he had been honest, we would simply have agreed to have the drugs from the car be removed from consideration in those cases."

Brown's office said 32 cases have been dismissed or in the process of being dismissed because Serafin was a critical witness; there are another 11 cases where Serafin was a peripheral witness and the defense lawyers have been contacted.

Brown said his office would no longer trust Serafin as a witness in any future prosecutions.

Serafin was one of two Eden Prairie detectives honored early this year by the Tri-County Law Enforcement Association for his work investigating heroin overdose deaths.

On Friday, though, Eden Prairie Police Chief Greg Weber said "an administrative investigation is underway" because of the findings released Friday by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

Correction (Oct. 18, 2018): An earlier version of a photo cutline incorrectly identified David Brown.