Mistaken identity cited in acquittal of man charged with selling cocaine

August 31, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Westminster man who spent more than a month in jail, charged with selling cocaine on two occasions to an undercover police officer in 1995, was acquitted yesterday in an unusual case of mistaken identity.

Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. said he had "no doubt whatsoever" that Wayne A. Safrit, 46, of the 800 block of Fairfield Ave. was innocent.

Sobbing with joy and receiving hugs from family and friends in the courtroom, Safrit said, "Now I can get on with the rest of my life."

Safrit was arrested Nov. 17 and released Dec. 19.

Daniel Shemer, a public defender, said the officer and a police informant who testified for the state "truly believed" Safrit was the man who sold them drugs.

Until five days ago, Shemer said, defending Safrit hinged on the testimony of four of Safrit's friends who said the defendant was at a pub in Westminster's Cranberry Mall on Aug. 25, 1995, one of the two dates the officer said she made the undercover buy from a man outside a West Main Street bar. The officer said the man's wallet contained a medical card bearing the name Wayne A. Safrit. Safrit said his wallet had disappeared several days before.

"Everyone was focusing on the Aug. 25 date and forgot to examine Sept. 22, the date of the alleged second purchase," Shemer said.

Five days ago, Shemer learned Safrit had gone to West Virginia with his brother-in-law Sept. 22. Gasoline credit card receipts corroborated the brother-in-law's testimony.

Pub Date: 8/31/96

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