FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — Otter Tail County prosecutor Michelle Eldien had to drop about a dozen cases in which Deputy Kelly Backman was a crucial witness.

"That's the very hard medicine. There is absolutely a serious question of public safety," said Grand Forks defense lawyer Ted Sandberg.

A former homicide prosecutor in Detroit turned defense lawyer in Grand Forks, Sandberg is not connected to the case, but he said prosecutors had no other choice but to drop the charges in those cases.

Eldien would not comment on what type of charges were thrown out.

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"There is a question on whether or not he is really telling the truth about the narcotics transfer," Sandberg said.

During a follow-up investigation after a pursuit by Backman led to a fatal crash, officers claim they noticed a mix of hard drugs and prescription medications that appeared to be missing or were lied about in evidence reports. A toxicology report found fentanyl in Backman's system at the time of the case.

Investigators also claim they found pipes for smoking drugs and grinders in Backman's desk and locker at work, along with a container that appeared to be consumed for drug use. Officers also noted that in an evidence locker that only Backman had access to, there were more signs that drugs had been smoked and used, along with a scale.

Sandberg said, in a way, the discovery is a positive thing, because it could have gone on for years and escalated.

"In the short-term, it might be painful for the community to have to digest, but at the same time this is how the system works, and it worked well. Police officers rarely get into this kind of trouble," he said.

While a dozen cases involving Backman have been dropped, Sandberg said, it would be tough to argue that the charges of vehicular homicide against Cody Freitag should be dropped in his case.

"At some point, you have to start asking, 'Alright, but what was your conduct, sir, even if the police officer's conduct at the beginning was improper?" Sandberg said.

Backman's first court date has not been set.

If convicted of the DWI charge for allegedly driving with fentanyl in his system during the pursuit, and on the misconduct charge, he could spend more than a year behind bars.