Dashcam video appears to debunk woman's claim of sexual assault by deputy

Published: Friday, Sept. 28 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

ROOSEVELT — A former Duchesne County sheriff's deputy is firing back against a woman who has accused him of fondling her during a 2011 traffic stop.

Derek Dalton is currently a Saratoga Springs police officer. He filed a counterclaim this week against Veronica Wopsock in U.S. District Court that describes her civil rights lawsuit against him as "meritless, unfounded and outrageous."

Dalton also lists the Ute Indian Tribe, the tribe's governing Business Committee and its six members as defendants. It accuses Wopsock and tribal officials of engaging in defamation, civil conspiracy, abuse of process and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

He also contends that tribal officials exceeded their authority by "conspiring with and assisting Wopsock" and other tribal members in their efforts to thwart Duchesne County from arresting and prosecuting tribal members when it has jurisdiction to do so.

Wopsock filed her federal lawsuit in June, alleging that Dalton took "indecent sexual liberties" with her during a Sept. 4, 2011, traffic stop north of Roosevelt while he was working for the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office. The suit claims Dalton groped Wopsock.

"I knew from day one that it was wrong; that it was false," Duchesne County Sheriff Travis Mitchell said Friday. "The evidence has shown that it was a totally fabricated allegation."

That evidence includes video of the traffic stop that was recorded by the camera in Dalton's patrol vehicle. The video was released this week to the Deseret News in response to a June 22 public records request.

In the video, which runs without audio for much of its 40 minutes, Wopsock is seen walking up behind Dalton as he begins to search her car after arresting a passenger who was a convicted felon with an outstanding warrant, and finding a syringe inside the vehicle.

As Wopsock approaches, Dalton turns and appears to speak to the woman, who returns to the back of the car. She can be seen emptying the contents of her pockets onto the lid of the trunk.

With that done, Dalton and Wopsock appear to talk once more and Wopsock puts her hands out to her sides as the deputy quickly pats the front and back pockets of her shorts in a cursory check for weapons. Dalton then returns to the car to continue his search.

The video shows that at least two children were in the car when it was stopped. Wopsock can be seen helping one child out of the car before Dalton begins his search.

At no time does the video show Dalton touching Wopsock above the waist. Nor does he appear to touch her genitals as she alleged.

But attorney Jeremy Patterson, whose law firm serves as general counsel for the Ute Indian Tribe, said there are portions of the video where both Dalton and Wopsock are off camera. The alleged assault could have happened then, he said.

Tribal attorneys also question why the dashcam video was not provided to the attorney who represented Wopsock in her traffic case when it was requested as part of the discovery process.

"That was withholding evidence and it's inexplicable," said tribal attorney Frances Bassett.

Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote said Wopsock's attorney in the traffic case was promised a copy of the video by a deputy prosecutor. But Wopsock accepted a plea offer before the video was turned over, which is why it was never provided to the defense.

The video was provided to the Utah Attorney General's Office in late June after it launched an investigation at the request of the county into Wopsock's allegations. State investigators tried to contact Wopsock repeatedly to set up an interview, but one of her attorneys told them no interview would be granted.

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