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State Trooper Resigns After Allegations of Inappropriate Conduct

Posted September 5, 2007

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— A North Carolina State Highway Patrol trooper assigned to Orange County has resigned over allegations of inappropriate behavior during a traffic stop, the force confirmed Wednesday.

Michael Steele, 28, quit Sunday amid allegations of serious misconduct involving a traffic stop of a man and woman near Carrboro last week, Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said.

The patrol started investigating after the couple's attorney, Ebher Rossi, of Burlington, reported the incident last week. Rossi would not identify the couple.

Rossi said Steele stopped the couple, who are Hispanic, on their way home from a medical procedure and that the trooper allegedly told the husband he would face immigration violations if he did not drive away from the stop alone.

Rossi alleged that Steele "made" the woman get into his patrol car "against her will," drove to a secluded area and then "forced her" to kiss him.

"He made arrangements to have sex with her last Friday," Rossi told WRAL in a telephone interview Friday afternoon. "He told her if she didn't give him her number, he would kill her husband and two daughters."

Steele had patrolled in the Hillsborough area of Orange County and had been with the Highway Patrol since April 2004.

His resignation came less than a week after the Highway Patrol dismissed Wake County trooper Scott Harrison, who is accused of profiling young women at night during his traffic stops.

After a judge found Harrison "unworthy of belief," Wake County prosecutors decided to dismiss 136 charges, including 28 counts of  driving while impaired, against 82 drivers whom Harrison had ticketed.

Harrison has adamantly denied the allegations against him, saying he believed he was fair in his arrests.

Bryan Beatty, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said the Highway Patrol has a strict code of conduct and that it takes all allegations of misconduct seriously.

"Troopers are held to a high standard, and in recent cases, the patrol has taken decisive and appropriate action to maintain the integrity of the organization," he said.

"The public can be assured the leadership and members of the Highway Patrol are committed to maintaining a high level of public trust and committed to our mission of keeping the highways as safe as possible."