The former Eden Prairie police detective accused of falsifying a search warrant application will not face criminal charges.
Travis Serafin's alleged action in one investigation also affected dozens of cases in which he could have a connection.
McLeod County Attorney Michael Junge said in a statement Friday that although there were "clear alterations made to the first page" of the search warrant's application, "it had no effect on the permissable scope of the search as authorized by the search warrant."
Nevertheless, Junge called the lack of charges "distasteful."
"An officer falsified an application for a search warrant and does not face criminal punishment. An officer intentionally gave false testimony and cannot be charged," the county attorney said.
The 2017 warrant, signed by Judge Jay Quam, gave Hennepin County Drug Task Force investigators permission to enter the home of a man accused of providing heroin laced with fentanyl to a Twin Cities woman, who later died. But Serafin also filled out an application page that was not signed by Quam, which included a vehicle as well, which investigators also searched.
Junge said that in a 2018 hearing before a different judge, Serafin provided testimony that was "clearly false," but because it was not material to the search warrant itself, it did not mean the detective committed perjury.
In October, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said Serafin falsified a warrant and that because of that, dozens of cases he worked on would likely need to be reexamined.
The cases included that of the accused drug dealer, whose property was searched using the altered warrant application. His drug charge was dismissed and he was released from prison.
Serafin's attorney said he did not intentionally falsify the warrant paperwork, but made errors because he was disorganized and had a lot of cases.
The Hennepin County Attorney's Office thanked the McLeod County attorney for taking the Serafin case when it had a conflict. Spokesperson Chuck Laszewski said because of the Serafin case, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office sent letters requesting the court throw out judgments in 22 cases where the defendant was found guilty. The office also asked for dismissals in another 24 cases that had been charged.
"We understand why he could not bring charges. Once officer Serafin's compelled statement to investigators in the Eden Prairie Police Department was made public in December, it became impossible to bring charges," Laszewski said. "The reason is that no prosecutor would be able to prove that any evidence brought forth in a criminal trial was not due to the officer's statement. That statement cannot be used against him in court."
Junge recommended that in the future, officers should not be disciplined until criminal charging decisions are made, and the "Minnesota data privacy statute could be amended to keep internal disciplinary investigations private until the criminal investigation is complete."