Decorated trooper admits violating UHP policies during arrest

Published: Wednesday, March 28 2012 6:29 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Questions over a decorated Utah Highway Patrol trooper’s credibility are overshadowing a Salt Lake County DUI case.  

Trooper Lisa Steed admitted in court Tuesday that she violated UHP policies when she issued a breathalyzer before conducting a field sobriety test during a 2010 traffic stop, and she purposely left her microphone in her cruiser that would have recorded the encounter.

The resulting reprimand was included in a section of Steed’s personnel file, and was determined to be admissible by 3rd District Judge Mark Kouris.

The attorney for DUI suspect Theron Alexander planned to use the disclosure to challenge Steed’s credibility. Because the ordeal was verified independently during an investigation by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, the information in theory could be used in other DUI cases.

Steed's attorney, Greg Skordas, disputed the idea Wednesday that his client’s actions somehow affected her credibility, saying they were simple violations of stringent UHP policy.

“In no instance was her conduct illegal. In no instance was it immoral — or really, legally wrong,” Skordas said. “None of these have anything to do with her integrity or her ability to carry out her functions as a law enforcement officer.”

Still, former 30-year prosecutor Kent Morgan — who has no connection to the case — said procedural missteps can be used to argue against someone’s credibility.

“People look at small transgressions and say, 'That’s evidence that they might not be following the rules on the bigger picture as well,'” Morgan said.

It isn’t the first time Steed has been embroiled in a legal battle. She was sued following a 2009 traffic stop where she deployed a Taser twice on a man inside his car, as he asked to talk to his lawyer.

Still, Morgan warned about jumping to conclusions about Steed’s conduct in Alexander’s case and any of her other DUI cases.

“To draw a conclusion that everything else terrible happened in this case is not what justice is about and that’s not what fact-finding is about,” he said.

Alexander’s case has been continued until next month while the DUI suspect’s attorney works to subpoena Steed’s supervisors. The Utah Highway Patrol declined comment Wednesday because of the pending nature of the Alexander case.

In 2007, Steed was the first woman to be named Trooper of the Year by the UHP. She is responsible for hundreds of DUI arrests.

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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