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The Utah Highway Patrol, while stressing there was never a "cover-up" of alleged evidence fabrication by a former trooper, confirmed Thursday it has begun work on a centralized system to notify prosecutors statewide of any future "potential integrity issue" with law officers.
Meantime, through his attorney, ex-UHP Trooper Neil Green fired back, claiming the incident cited was a "simple and honest mistake," and that the ongoing controversy fed by comments from UHP and the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office amounted to a "witch hunt."
On Tuesday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said his office had suspended all pending cases as many as 40 involving ex-UHP Trooper Neil Green.
Green resigned last year after being accused of claiming to have administered field sobriety tests during a DUI arrest that he actually had not performed.
Gill said that prosecution of all cases involving Green were on hold until his staff can review his evidentiary contributions in each of an unspecified number of cases.
Gill also took the UHP to task for purportedly not immediately notifying prosecutors of its investigation into Green's veracity, saying his staff was unaware of the matter until it tried to proceed with one of Green's cases last month more than a year after Green had stepped down.
The UHP took issue with that, however, stating that Administrative Sgt. Jacob Cox charged with responding to all subpoenas for troopers in Salt Lake County had contacted Gill's office in early April 2014. The department's statement noted that Cox's contact is recounted in a memo the sergeant sent to UHP Col. Dan Fuhr.
It reads, in part: "I contacted the DA's office and explained that Neil no longer worked for us and relayed what Neil had told me about moving to Washington [state]. I also relayed the specifics about the case that initiated the investigation, the DUI report and whether or not [field sobriety tests] were administered in that case."
The memo also recounts how Cox "specifically said that Neil's integrity was in question and that was the main concern." Cox said he spoke with three attorneys in Gill's office during that period in April 2014 including one who Cox believed was "in some upper-level supervisory position."
Cox said in his memo "I cannot recall specifically" whom he talked to, but he named three prosecutors with whom he had spoken "during this time about various issues."
Gill said Thursday that none of his prosecutors or staff recalls being notified about Green.
"[Someone] may have spoken to somebody," Gill conceded, but if he did, the information was not passed on to the administration.
Gill said the probable "miscommunication" or "misunderstanding" continues to highlight the need for a statewide system that requires law enforcement to formally notify prosecutors of officers' potential integrity issues.
" 'I spoke to somebody' is not sufficient for matters of this importance," Gill said. "It has to be a little bit more formal than that."
Gill added: "Wherever the deficiency is, it's nonetheless a deficiency systemically."
He said his office will be pushing lawmakers to create "a statutory fix, so there is no confusion, speculation or misunderstanding" about law enforcement's need to report issues that may prove to be of an exculpatory nature to the defense in a case.
The UHP and Gill's office are now working together with other prosecutors throughout the state to launch a central reporting system. "This will avoid confusion in the future," the UHP said.
The UHP's statement acknowledged "there has never been a centralized system in place for law enforcement agencies to notify all prosecutors in the state of a potential integrity issue. It has always been done on a case-by-case basis and individual attorney or county."
The case that resulted in Green's resignation occurred in August 2013 in Davis County.
Court records indicate that Green arrested a driver on both a previous warrant and suspicion of possession of drug paraphernalia and a small amount of marijuana. The then-trooper claimed, in both his report and later in testimony, that the driver had failed field sobriety tests.
However, six months later, in February 2014, Davis County prosecutors learned while reviewing Green's dash-cam video that he had not conducted the field sobriety tests. They reported this to the UHP, while dismissing an undisclosed number of other county cases involving the trooper.
The department launched an internal-affairs investigation in March 2014. Green resigned soon thereafter. However, UHP Internal Affairs officers concluded in September that they had insufficient evidence to prove Green had intentionally misled prosecutors or his UHP superiors.