UHP to pay man shocked with Taser during traffic stop $40,000
A Salt Lake City man who sued a state trooper in federal court after she shocked him with her Taser during a traffic stop has received a $40,000 settlement in the case.
Ryan Jones filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in June claiming Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Lisa Steed pulled him over while he was driving March 28, 2009, on State Street near 2700 South. Jones alleged that when he told Steed he wanted to speak to an attorney, she became combative with him, according to court documents.
She checked his license and other paperwork and then asked him to take a breath test for alcohol because she smelled alcohol in the car, the suit states.
Jones said he wanted to speak to his lawyer before taking any tests, according to the lawsuit. He claims that Steed pulled out her Taser and threatened to deploy it if Jones did not get out of the car.
When Jones asked her not to fire the Taser, Steed pressed it against his arm and fired, the lawsuit states.
After Jones recovered, he again said he wanted to speak to his lawyer, the suit states. Without further commands or warning, Steed deployed the Taser on his arm again, Jones claimed.
The lawsuit states that Steed threatened to fire the Taser again and arrested Jones when he refused to take a field sobriety test.
Jones sued Steed on claims she used excessive force and violated Jones' constitutional rights.
Brian Barnard, who represents Jones, said Wednesday that a $40,000 settlement was reached. In exchange for the settlement, Jones has agreed to drop the case against Steed, the Utah Highway Patrol and the state. Barnard said he's hopeful the case will remind law enforcement to be mindful when exercising force.
"There have been too many recent instances in Utah where Tasers have been improperly and unwisely used. That wrongful use has potentially lethal consequences," Barnard said.
"This was a case of excessive and completely unnecessary use of force. While Tasers are useful tools for officers, their misuse and overuse causes disrespect for law enforcement. This was a case of a trooper acting unprofessionally, irresponsibility and maliciously."
Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Todd Johnson declined to comment on the settlement on Wednesday, other than to confirm the settlement was reached. Johnson said Steed remains employed as a trooper.
Steed received state honors for her work prior to Jones' case.
In 2007, she was named the Utah Highway Patrol's new Trooper of the Year. The Utah Department of Public Safety chose Steed after she made more than 200 DUI arrests that year. She was the first woman to receive the honor, which is annually selected by UHP's Honorary Colonels.
A graduate of Weber State University, Steed holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. She worked as a dispatcher while attending school and resides in West Point.
Meanwhile, Wednesday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill confirmed his office has asked a judge to review documents involving Steed. Gill said that inquiry related about to 30 pending DUI cases in his county that Steed was involved in. He said prosecutors have asked a judge to determine if certain documents are protected under law or should be released as part of a discovery process because they're germane to a case. That review has been ongoing, even before Wednesday's settlement announcement. He said, in general, protected records could involve such things as administrative matters or personnel files.
"There are issues that have been raised that gave us concern," he said. "We're just doing our due diligence. We have an obligation to provide to defense council all applicable records."
He said he couldn't discuss what those "issues" were.
"I am not suggesting that in any way that Trooper Steed did anything wrong," he said. "All that I'm suggesting is certain issues were raised. We have an obligation to pursue those concerns."
He said he wouldn't speculate on what impact the judge's decision could have on pending cases.
Janelle Stecklein contributed to this report.