Double jeopardy claim denied in attempted murder case

Justin Haffa

MAYVILLE — A motion of double jeopardy for a Cheektowaga man accused of attempted murder of a Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputy was denied at a hearing Friday morning in Mayville.

July selection resumed in Chautauqua County Court in the retrial of Justin Haffa after the motion was heard in front of Judge David Foley. As of Friday morning, six jurors have been seated

Ned Barone, public defender, argued that Haffa should be barred from retrial on the grounds of double jeopardy following a mistrial in September.

Foley granted the mistrial shortly after Patrick Swanson, district attorney, rested his case. Barone claimed forensic evidence had not been shared with the defense in violation of court protocol.

Barone argued Friday that double jeopardy be granted because Haffa’s constitutional rights to a fair trial had been violated. He noted that there was no way of telling if the District Attorney’s Office failed to share the evidence intentionally, and because of that, Haffa’s rights were being infringed upon.

“How does the court make the determination it was not intentional?” Barone asked. “The reality is Mr. Haffa’s constitutional rights have been violated.”

Barone called Swanson’s first attempt at convicting Haffa before the mistrial as a “dry run” and “a practice run for him,” arguing his defense was at a disadvantage.

Swanson called the motion for double jeopardy “untimely” and noted that Barone had three months to file but waited until now. He also called the implication that his office intentionally mishandled the evidence to drive the court proceedings to a mistrial as “outrageous.”

“We argued against the mistrial,” Swanson said. “We didn’t apply for the mistrial.”

Foley ruled against the double jeopardy motion, stating that Swanson’s intent “was not intentional or intended to provoke a mistrial.”

Haffa is facing 25 years to life in prison if convicted. He is also facing charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree assault on a police officer.

During the first trial, investigators noted that Haffa was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and multiple drugs during the September 2016 incident that lead to his arrest. After crashing his vehicle on Route 60, Haffa allegedly became combative with a female sheriff’s deputy during a sobriety test.

The District Attorney’s Office alleges Haffa attempted to choke, stab the officer with a knife and use the officer’s firearm against her. After a four hour manhunt, Haffa was located and taken into custody.