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The Utah Attorney General's Office settled a lawsuit Friday involving former Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Lisa Steed, who is accused of arresting drivers who were not legally impaired.
The settlement covers $200,000 for costs and attorney fees for the three plaintiffs in the case Robert C. Anderson, Thomas Romero and Julie Tapia each of whom was arrested over alleged DUI violations, though tests showed either no evidence of drugs or no substance levels beyond the legal limit.
The settlement precludes a four-day civil trial scheduled to begin before 2nd District Judge Michael Allphin on Aug. 16. Though it needs approval from the court, the agreement dismisses the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled including an appeal of the court's previous ruling that the case cannot be tried as a class-action suit for the potentially thousands of people affected by Steed's traffic stops.
"Steed and the Utah Highway Patrol continue to believe that her arrests were supported by probable cause and therefore were valid under the Utah Constitution," the attorney general's office said in a news release Friday. "... In essence, the settlement today allows everyone involved in this case, including Ms. Steed, to put this matter behind them and move forward."
Named Trooper of the Year in 2007, Steed allegedly arrested people after falsifying results of sobriety tests. She was fired in 2012 after two judges found Steed to be untruthful on the witness stand. Steed unsuccessfully appealed the termination in June 2013 at an administrative hearing, admitting to making mistakes, such as turning off her microphone during sobriety tests and drawing blood from suspects without a supervisor present.
Michael Studebaker, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, said the settlement "was the best resolution for our clients" in the long term. There's no way of knowing, he said, how the case would have played out had it gone to trial.
"Our hope would be that we don't see stuff like this happen again," he said.
Romero, one of the plaintiffs, was arrested in September 2011. He says Steed had him take a sobriety test and told him he failed after pulling him over on his way home to Layton. She administered an oral blood-alcohol test and drew his blood before he was booked into Davis County Jail. All tests proved negative for drugs, and Romero says he spent $6,000 fighting the resulting charges.
Steed's UHP supervisor purportedly knew of the accusations in 2010 and said in an internal memo that the issues "need to be addressed before defense attorneys catch on," according to an exhibit in pre-trial motions.
There is one remaining case against Steed, a federal lawsuit with no set trial date, wherein plaintiff Jeff Harker alleges similar misconduct by Steed. He says the trooper pulled him over in February 2010, conducted sobriety tests beyond view of her dashboard camera and never obtained a warrant to conduct a blood test, which showed positive results for methamphetamine. A 3rd District judge dismissed the charges related to drug possession in June 2011.