Fired State Trooper Accused of Faking DUI Arrests (among other things)
Fired State Trooper Accused of Faking DUI Arrests
A class-action lawsuit has been filed against a former Utah Highway Patrol trooper and her superiors alleging that she filed false DUI charges during her career.
The department fired Lisa Steed in November for alleged misconduct related to her duties.
Attorney Michael Studebaker, who is one of the lawyers leading the class-action lawsuit, says he has been contacted by at least 40 people claiming Steed wrongfully arrested them on DUI or drug charges.
"Culture of corruption. The stories are just rampant," said Studebaker, who filed the lawsuit Dec. 14 in District Court in Salt Lake County.
Lawyers have yet to determine exactly how much the plaintiffs will seek in monetary damages.
One of the alleged victims was Michael Choate, who says Steed pulled him over for speeding with his wife in the car.
"She said she clocked me at 73. I said as fastest I was going was about 62," Choate said.
Choate was arrested and charged with DUI, but the charge was reduced to having an open container of alcohol in the car after a blood test showed he was not drunk. Choate says he was forced to pay $3,000 in fines to get his car back.
Choate was also upset that his wife was forced to find her own way home after his arrest.
"They dropped her off at a Burger King," he said. "She didn't have any money, she didn't have her cellphone with her. She had to borrow a quarter from a lady to make a phone call."
Steed and her attorney have not responded to requests for comment. Utah Highway Patrol says it cannot comment on pending litigation.
She is under investigation by the FBI.
Studebaker also cites a dashcam video from a 2011 traffic stop that he says shows Steed's pulling over a woman driver. The video shows the driver performing a series of sobriety tests. Studebaker says the unidentified woman passed all the tests with flying colors but was still arrested for DUI.
Charges were later dropped after a blood test found no alcohol in her system, Studebaker says. The driver has since joined the lawsuit against Steed.
Steed was named Utah Highway Patrol's "Trooper of the Year" in 2007 for making more than 200 DUI arrests, a reward that Studebaker says should be taken away from her.
Steed herself has admitted in the past that she did not follow proper protocol while administering a DUI check. At a court hearing in May 2012, Steed admitted that, while she was administering a blood-alcohol test on Theron Alexander March 2010, she removed her microphone in order to perform an unauthorized action.
An attorney representing Alexander told ABC News last year that Steed's actions could call all her cases into question.
"The cumulative facts may well have a significant ripple effect across every case she's touched," Salt Lake City attorney Joseph Jardine said in March. "This could become the basis for overturning multiple convictions in the past."
Steed's attorney, Greg Skordas, has said he does not believe that the incident is any reflection of his client's credibility.
"It doesn't affect her credibility. It affects the way she does things, her ability to follow instructions," Skordas told ABCNews.com in March. "It doesn't mean she's dishonest."
In 2009, dashcam video showed Steed stun-gunning Ryan Jones, a motorist who was later determined to be sober.
The case was settled in November 2011 when the state paid Jones $40,000 without admitting wrongdoing.
When asked about that case, Skordas said, "She took her lumps, she was reprimanded and we move on."