Interview With Haffa After ’16 Incident Heard In County Court

MAYVILLE — Jurors in the attempted murder case of a Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputy on Wednesday heard a taped interview of Justin Haffa hours after a tussle with the deputy on Sept. 11, 2016.

The interview at the Sheriff’s Office in Mayville was carried out by Randy Boland, sheriff’s investigator at the time, around 8:45 a.m. Haffa was brought to the office after being apprehended on Putnam Road around 7:15 a.m.

Jurors heard Haffa speak about the incident in which he crashed his car and failed a sobriety test performed by Deputy Sara Cunningham. He also discussed the moment when they went to the ground and when he snatched her gun after she fired two shots. He then fled the scene with her gun.

Before Boland read his Miranda rights, jurors could hear Haffa breaking down and stating that he didn’t know why he did it.

“I just did it,” he said. “I know I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have been driving. I didn’t want to hurt anyone.”

In the interview, Haffa told Boland he drank half a bottle of cough syrup on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, and the rest of the bottle the following day. In addition, he said he smoked marijuana, drank Four Loko Gold and took Xanax.

Regarding the accident, Haffa told Boland he thought he hit something that caused his tire to go flat, which caused him to swerve and head off the road. When Cunningham arrived and performed the sobriety test, he said he wanted to run away. Haffa said she stopped him, which led to a physical altercation on the ground.

Haffa said he thinks he pulled out a knife while he was on top of Cunningham to intimidate her. He said he placed the knife in his buttocks prior to the physical altercation. He also said he took her gun after a tug-of-war and ran off.

“I didn’t want to kill her,” Haffa told Boland in the interview room. “I never had something like this happen. I have never been arrested like this.”

Based off the interview, a written statement from Haffa was formulated. Boland read it to jurors on Tuesday.

During cross-examination Wednesday, Public Defender Ned Barone questioned Boland on things discussed in the interview that were left out of Haffa’s written statement. Barone specifically alluded to the “I never meant to hurt anyone” statement, the part when he discusses his mental health and the part when he said he never hit her.

Boland responded by saying that it would be “choppier” to have those statements in there.

Through Barone’s questioning, it was found that Haffa wasn’t given a chance to amend his statement like Cunningham. Boland said terminology in Haffa’s statement didn’t allow for it.

On top of the sobriety test performed by Cunningham at the scene, another one was conducted on Haffa at the Sheriff’s Office following Boland’s questioning. Haffa failed the test.

After Boland was called off the stand, the Hon. David Foley recessed court for the day to handle other matters. Trial proceedings will resume this afternoon.

Boland was the final witness before the prosecution rested its case during the first trial. It’s unknown whether the prosecution has any other witnesses to bring before turning it over to the defense to present its case.

Haffa is facing charges of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree robbery and aggravated assault on a police officer. If convicted, Haffa could face 25 years to life in prison.