Former Eden Prairie Police Officer Travis Serafin will not be facing charges after falsifying information in a search warrant application, McLeod County Attorney Michael Junge announced in a press release Friday.
The Eden Prairie Police Department’s process in the investigation interrupted the possibility of pressing charges, the release says. Serafin had given a statement during an employee investigation, and had been punished for this statement.
The punishment went against state and federal supreme court history, Junge said, and Serafin’s punishment should have been delayed until charges were decided.
Court history says an officer’s statement during an internal investigation is compelled, he said, because if the officer refuses to give a statement, he or she could face terminated employment. The compelled statements from internal investigations therefore can’t be used against the officer.
Serafin was no longer with the department as of Nov. 6, 2018.
“This result is distasteful for several reasons,” Junge said in the release. “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 Minnesota Department of Administration ordered Serafin’s discipline be made public in December. Junge attributed the data privacy act allowing this to part of the reason charges couldn’t be pressed against Serafin.
“The Minnesota data privacy statute could be amended to keep internal disciplinary investigations private until the criminal investigation is completed,” the release says.
The police department issued a statement saying the city cannot comment for the time being due to personnel matters.
Serafin, who had been with the department 18 years, was accused of falsifying information for a search warrant in a June 2017 case. This led to over 30 cases being dismissed or having convictions vacated and expunged in October of 2017.
Because of his history working throughout the county, a review for possible charges was left to the McLeod County Attorney’s office. The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division had an investigator assigned to look into charges, and the investigation was finished in March.
Within the Southwest Hennepin Drug Task Force, Serafin investigated narcotics-related cases across the metro. There are 71 defendants with whom Serafin was a witness in their investigation.
Several defendants walked since an Oct. 12, 2018, press conference announcement that cases would have to be reviewed in light of the warrant falsification. The first person released was Robbinsdale man Sean Donzell Cole after a court hearing on Oct. 17, 2018.
Another was Timothy Martin Holmes, the case with the warrant. Serafin was a primary witness in the testimony that led to Holmes’ May sentencing.
In that June 2017 investigation, Serafin and other officers used a search warrant at a suspect’s Minneapolis residence where they found heroin. But they also found drugs in a vehicle.
The Attorney’s Office received the investigation, and a week later, prosecutors requested Serafin show the additional search warrant. He sent a search warrant identical to the original with the judge’s signature and an additional page allowing the search of the car.
Attorney Frederick Goetz represented the case’s defendant. He questioned why there were two search warrants in January. Serafin wrote a supplemental report about the warrants, Brown said. He testified about the two warrants in February.
The judge who heard the testimony passed his concern on to the Eden Prairie Police Department March 29. The department began an investigation, which led to an announcement: A number of cases would be dismissed or have convictions vacated and expunged.
At the Oct. 12, 2018, press conference, Chief Deputy Hennepin County Attorney David Brown confirmed while police did have a warrant to search Holmes’ residence during the investigation, they did not have one for a vehicle as Serafin testified.