Ute woman says Duchesne County sheriff’s deputy groped her
Duchesne County • Sheriff says the woman never filed a complaint with his department.
Published: June 21, 2012 02:32PM
Updated: September 11, 2012 11:37PM

A Ute woman is suing the Duchesne County Sheriff’s Department for at least $500,000, claiming a deputy groped her during a traffic stop.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Veronica M. Wopsock claims that on Sept. 4 she was driving on North Crescent Road with her children when she was pulled over by Deputy Derek Dalton. Dalton said she was speeding and ordered Wopsock to get out of her car, the lawsuit states.

“Dalton then began groping Ms. Wopsock’s breasts and genitals and otherwise taking indecent sexual liberties with Ms. Wopsock,” the lawsuit claims.

Duchesne County Sheriff Travis Mitchell, who was informed of the allegations by The Tribune, said Thursday that no complaint was ever filed by Wopsock with his department.

“There’s never been any mention of any groping by our officers, which we would have investigated thoroughly if we’d been given an opportunity,” Mitchell said. “We would have had an outside investigation.”

Wopsock claims Dalton also searched her car without her consent, even though the only offenses were traffic-related.

“Dalton was not looking for, and did not find, any evidence relevant to the charges of speeding, lack of proof of insurance or seat belt violations,” the suit states, and Dalton did not have any reason to suspect other offenses.

In Dalton’s incident report, he omitted that he ordered Wopsock to get out of the car and the search of the car, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also claims Wopsock may have been targeted because she is an American Indian.

“Duchesne County and its agencies have a long history of antipathy toward ... the Ute Tribe ... and a pattern of selectively stopping and bringing charges against Indians and Ute tribal members in contexts in which they would not stop or charge local Caucasian residents.”

North Crescent road is used by many American Indians to drive from reservation land into Roosevelt, the lawsuit notes.

Wopsock claims Dalton knew she was a tribal member when he stopped her.

Mitchell said he has had meetings with the tribe since the alleged groping, and no one has made a complaint.

“If the tribe or any individual has a problem with any of the officers, I hope they let me know about it,” Mitchell said.

Dalton no longer works for the Duchesne County Sheriff’s Department, Mitchell said.

Saratoga Springs police spokesman Cpl. Shane Taylor verified Dalton now works as a patrol officer for its department. There have not been any complaints since Dalton has been there and the ongoing suit will not affect his duties, Taylor said.

Mitchell said the allegations of sexual misconduct are out of character given Dalton’s usual behavior.

“I don’t see that happening with that officer,” Mitchell said of Dalton. “He was pretty aggressive with his traffic enforcement over there, and some of the tribal members were not happy with him because he was.”

Wopsock is also suing the sheriff’s department for failing to train officers to make audio and video recordings of traffic stops.

Attempts to reach Dalton were not immediately successful.

— Reporter Cimaron Neugebauer contributed to this story.

ealberty@sltrib.com