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The state of Utah has offered to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a man who says he was wrongfully pulled over and arrested by former Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Lisa Steed, but the plaintiff may wait to hire a new attorney before deciding whether to accept.
Jeff Harker's attorney, Franklin Brussow, died April 5 in Taos, N.M., according to an obituary. Harker appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups on Thursday and said he was having trouble hiring a lawyer. One lawyer he consulted, Harker said, was reluctant to take it on a contingency basis.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Meb Anderson told Waddoups that he made a settlement offer to Brussow before he died. Anderson did not specify the offer in court.
Waddoups told Harker he could take the offer and save himself some more legal fees.
"Of course, you would forfeit the benefit of counsel," Waddoups said.
"I like the discussions we have had so far," Harker said, "but I think it would be in my best interest if I could, as you say, retain some counsel."
Harker said he paid Brussow four years ago, but the executor of his estate has notified Harker it wants a percentage of any settlement.
Waddoups scheduled another hearing in the case for Sept. 22. No trial has been scheduled.
Harker's lawsuit is the last against Steed remaining in federal court. Three plaintiffs have a lawsuit scheduled for trial in Utah's 2nd District Court on Aug. 16. Their allegations against Steed are much like Harker's. He argues Steed falsified results of a field sobriety test and arrested him without probable cause. Harker claims that on Feb. 20, 2010, he drove his Eagle Talon onto Interstate 15 in Davis County. At Bountiful or North Salt Lake, Steed began following him in her UHP car and followed him all the way until he exited the freeway onto 2100 South in Salt Lake City. When Harker pulled into a gas station at 900 W. 2100 South, the lawsuit says, Steed turned on her overhead flashing lights.
Steed told Harker she was citing him for an illegal right turn onto 2100 South, according to the lawsuit. She asked Harker whether he had drugs in the car, and he refused to answer, the suit says. The lawsuit claims Steed made Harker take a field sobriety test out of view of her dashboard camera and then falsely claimed he failed. Harker spent seven days in jail before a judge released him.
Five months later, he was charged in Utah's 3rd District Court with a felony count of drug possession and misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence. Court documents from the criminal case said Harker's blood tested positive for methamphetamine, though the lawsuit claims Harker was never told the results of his blood test and Steed never obtained a warrant to take his blood. A state judge dismissed the charges in June 2011.