A man sentenced to prison as a result of the testimony of Eden Prairie police detective Travis Serafin was released this week, and the names of several other defendants whose cases will be dismissed were made public.

Serafin, who has been with the Eden Prairie Police Department for 18 years, was found to have lied in a search warrant that led to the arrest and conviction of a man for selling heroin that caused the overdose of an Eden Prairie woman in 2017, according to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. The revelation led to the announcement that more than 30 cases will be dismissed or have convictions vacated and expunged.

First man released

Sean Donzell Cole, a Robbinsdale man who was sentenced to serve 34 months in prison on a third-degree drug sale conviction in January, was released after a court hearing on Oct. 17, records show.

Cole, 26, was arrested in April 2017 after a search warrant executed at his home discovered 1.2 grams of heroin and a handgun, according to court documents. He was initially charged with two counts of possession of a firearm or ammunition by a felon and fifth-degree drug possession. His guilty plea was vacated by Judge Jeannice Reding.

When reached by the Eden Prairie News, Cole’s attorney said he was not cleared by his client to talk about the case.

Serafin, who often worked outside Eden Prairie with the Southwest Hennepin Drug Task Force, was listed as a primary state witness in the case.

False warrant case

Two more hearings for men held in state custody on cases where Serafin was a primary witness have hearings scheduled for Oct. 25, where the charges are also expected to be vacated.

Timothy Martin Holmes, the man convicted in the case where investigators say Serafin falsified a search warrant, will appear before a judge at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 25, according to court filings.

Holmes, 36, was sentenced to 72 months in prison in May for first-degree drug sale. He was initially charged with third-degree murder in the case because investigators believed he sold a mixture of heroin and fentanyl that caused the fatal overdose of an Eden Prairie woman in 2017.

When Serafin and other officers executed a search warrant at Holmes’ residence and found heroin, they also recovered drugs from a vehicle.

Police had a warrant for the home but not the vehicle, Chief Deputy Hennepin County Attorney David Brown said. A week after the Attorney’s Office received the investigation, at the request of prosecutors, Serafin sent an additional search warrant that was identical to the original, including the judge’s signature but with an additional page allowing of the search of the car.

In January, Holmes’ attorney Frederick Goetz questioned the evidence in the case and why there were two search warrants. Serafin was asked to write a supplemental report about the two warrants by prosecutors, Brown said. He testified about the two warrants in February.

“The judge who heard detective Serafin testify was concerned about the testimony,” Brown said.

The Eden Prairie Police Department learned of the case after receiving word of the judge’s concern on March 29, and began an investigation, according to Brown.

Another man currently in state custody, Torrence Lomantrho Gray, also has a hearing scheduled for Oct. 25 where his fifth-degree drug possession conviction in which Serafin was a critical witness will be vacated. Gray, 42, is serving that 13 month sentence in concurrence with an unrelated case in from Dakota County, and is not expected to be released from prison.

Other cases to be dismissed, reviewed

The revelation led the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office began reviewing all cases involving Serafin that were charged but not completed prior to Sept. 22, 2017, when the altered search warrant was filed.

Five cases where defendants were sent to diversion will be dismissed and their records will be expunged, Brown said. There are 17 cases where defense lawyers will be invited to request to vacate the conviction. The Attorney’s Office will then dismiss the cases and expunge the records; those people are not currently incarcerated, Brown said.

Four active warrants that Serafin was involved in investigating have been canceled, and the cases will be dismissed.

Brown said there are 14 other cases where Serafin was considered a secondary witness that will be re-examined. Three of those cases were sent to diversion and will be dismissed and have records expunged, Brown said.

On Friday, the Attorney’s Office published a list of 71 defendants who Serafin was a witness at some point in their investigation. The office said they have been contacting lawyers for those defendants.

Hennepin County Attorney spokesperson Chuck Laszewski said lawyers for those defendants would need to file in court to have their cases reviewed or overturned. Cases in which Serafin was a critical witness likely will be vacated or dismissed without objection from prosecutors. Cases where he was critical to the chain of evidence, or a less involved peripheral witness, will likely face more resistance from prosecutors on requests to vacate. All will be examined on a case-by-case basis.

The cases are not limited to Eden Prairie but spread across the metro because of Serafin’s work with the Southwest Metro Drug Task Force, which has officers from Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. Serafin’s personnel file indicates he has worked with the drug task force since 2014.

In 24 cases, Serafin is listed is a critical witness or filer of the affidavit. Of those cases, 12 people have been sentenced, six were sent to diversion, four cases are pending charges and two have active warrants.

In 16 cases, Serafin is considered to be critical to the chain of evidence. Twelve of those cases involve defendants who have been sentenced. Two others have active warrants, while two are pending.

There are an additional 30 cases where Serafin is considered a peripheral, or secondary, witness.

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