DUCHESNE — A female member of the Ute Indian Tribe has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a Duchesne County sheriff's deputy groped her during a September 2011 traffic stop.
The claims made by Veronica Wopsock, who is seeking damages of at least $1 million, "blindsided" Duchesne County Sheriff Travis Mitchell.
"We first heard about this from the media," Mitchell said.
Wopsock alleges that deputy Derek Dalton took "indecent sexual liberties" with her during a Sept. 4, 2011, traffic stop north of Roosevelt when he groped her breasts and genitals.
But Mitchell said Wopsock never filed a complaint with his office, nor was his office contacted by any outside law enforcement agency, like the FBI or Bureau of Indian Affairs police, about an investigation of the alleged incident.
"We're pretty frustrated about this (lawsuit)," the sheriff said. "We've got a situation that happened nine months ago that we had no clue about.
"If our officers were doing something wrong, we'd want to investigate it," Mitchell said. "We'd have an independent investigation done.
"If she didn't feel comfortable coming to us, there are other agencies," he added.
The sheriff said he's met regularly with Ute officials in recent months and has encouraged tribal members to report any issues they may have with his deputies.
Wopsock's attorney, however, disputed the sheriff's position.
"First of all, Ms. Wopsock could not have gotten the relief she seeks, except by filing a lawsuit," said Preston Stieff.
"Secondly, several other members of her tribe have (experienced) harassment that they've reported to the sheriff's department," Stieff said. "In some instances, nothing has been done. In other instances, there's actually been retaliation."
Dalton stopped Wopsock for speeding on North Crescent Road about 3 p.m. He ordered her out of her vehicle and then proceeded to sexually assault her while her children watched, according to the lawsuit.
"These are obviously serious allegations and ones that we don't file lightly," Stieff said.
The lawsuit also alleges that Dalton did not use the dash-mounted camera in his patrol vehicle to record the traffic stop. Mitchell questioned how Stieff could know this, since he said the attorney never contacted the sheriff's office or the county before filing the lawsuit.
"In the traffic violation case we requested, through formal discovery, any copies of (the dash-cam video) that they had, and the sheriff informed us that there were none," Stieff told the Deseret News.
The Deseret News filed a Government Records Access and Management Act request seeking the dash-cam video and deputy's report from the traffic stop. That request will be denied, according to deputy Duchesne County attorney Marea Doherty, because the incident is now the subject of an investigation by the sheriff's office. Doherty declined to even confirm whether the video exists.
Wopsock is not interested in seeing Dalton charged criminally, her attorney said.Comment on this story
"She doesn't have any particular desire to do that," Stieff said. "She sought the relief she wants to obtain through this lawsuit."
Court records show Wopsock entered into a plea in abeyance agreement for the speeding charge and pleaded guilty to driving without insurance. A warrant was issued for her arrest in May, after she failed to appear for a court hearing in Duchesne County Justice Court.
Dalton is now an officer with the Saratoga Springs Police Department, which referred all questions about the lawsuit to the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office.