Updated 4 p.m. | Posted 12:31 p.m.
A Twin Cities drug dealer convicted of murder is on a list of more than 70 defendants whose cases involved an Eden Prairie police officer accused of falsifying a warrant.
The list released Friday by Hennepin County prosecutors identifies detective Travis Serafin as a "peripheral witness" in the prosecution of Beverly Burrell, who is in prison after being convicted of three third-degree murders of men who overdosed on drugs she sold them.
She faces two more murder charges, for which her attorney, Craig Cascarano says she will plead guilty. It's not clear if Serafin's involvement with Burrell's case affects her. Cascarano has not returned a call seeking comment.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office says Serafin lied on a 2017 search warrant — not connected to Burrell — and because of that dozens of cases tied to Serafin's testimony may be dismissed.
On Wednesday, Hennepin County Judge Jeannice Reding ordered the drug conviction of Sean Donzell Cole vacated "due to the state's conclusion that the information provided by a key witness is unreliable and there is no other evidence sufficient to sustain the conviction."
Prosecutors say at least one person will be released from prison.
Serafin appears to have played an important role in more than half the cases listed by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office. The agency named him as a "critical witness" in two dozen cases and listed him as being "critical to [the] chain" of custody of evidence in another 16.
Serafin is also described as a "peripheral witness" in the third-degree murder case of Anthony Marlin West, which is still pending. West's case was scheduled to go on trial this week but was canceled. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 19.
In August, 42-year-old Harraman Hill pleaded guilty to fifth-degree drug possession and was sentenced to 17 months in prison. The sentence was stayed, meaning he will remain out of prison as long as he adheres to the conditions of this release for three years.
After hearing that Serafin was listed as being "critical" to the chain of custody of evidence in Hill's case, his attorney, state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, said he will soon file a motion to vacate the conviction and expunge Hill's record.
"People take law enforcement officers' word," said Champion. "There are so many people, like prosecutors, who rely on the importance of the accuracy and trustworthiness of the information that they are presented and that they get the custody of evidence correct. That there's no falsification, or that there would be no implication of falsification."
An attorney representing Serafin has said his client, who was a member of a county-wide drug task force, did not intentionally falsify the warrant in question.
The detective remains employed by the Eden Prairie Police Department, where he's worked since 2000.
The list released Friday by prosecutors specifies Serafin's level of involvement in each of 71 cases — significantly more than the 32 cases the Hennepin County Attorney's Office described last week as facing dismissal.
Prosecutors said 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 the drug warrant.
The county attorney's office, though, had anticipated it would uncover more cases beyond the 32, said agency spokesperson Chuck Laszewski.
Serafin served as "affiant/critical witness" or "critical to chain" in 40 cases. He was named a "peripheral witness" in 29 of them. In two cases, Serafin was determined to be "peripheral" or "role unknown."
As a peripheral witness, Serafin "would not need to be called as a witness to prosecute the case," Laszewski said.
Serafin was critical to cases, said Laszewski, "if he was part of the chain of custody on key pieces or piece of evidence, or if he was involved in obtaining the search warrant, executing the search warrant or interviewing the suspect or suspects."