Local News

Ex-Trooper Indicted in Alleged Traffic Stop Incidents

Posted December 14, 2007 2:34 p.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2007 8:45 a.m. EST

— A state Highway Patrol trooper who resigned amid allegations of inappropriate behavior at a traffic stop was indicted earlier this week on a number of charges, including two counts of second-degree kidnapping and sexual battery.

Michael A. Steele, 28, of Pepperston Drive, Graham, was also indicted on charges of communicating threats, several counts of extortion and several counts of assaulting a female.

Calling Steele's alleged acts "brazen," Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said the former trooper targeted women he thought were Hispanic and in the country illegally so they would not report him.

"There was great concern, and frankly, almost disbelief that an officer on duty in a marked car, in uniform, would do something like that," Woodall said.

The charges are related to cases involving three women over a period of 10 days in August in which Steele allegedly made sexual advances toward them and threats, Woodall said. All three women basically told the same story, he said.

"He told one of the women that he wanted her to call him back on a designated day, and if she didn't, he would kill her husband and her children," the district attorney said.

According to the indictments, Steele allegedly threatened to turn another woman over to immigration authorities "with the intent wrongfully to obtain physical contact, through kissing and touching of her breasts."

Neither Steele, his attorney nor his wife had any comment on the charges.

A trooper since April 2004, Steele patrolled in Orange County from the Hillsborough substation. He left his post in September after accusations from Burlington attorney Ebher Rossi. Rossi said the trooper stopped a Hispanic couple in Carrboro and told the husband he would face immigration violations if he did not leave his wife behind and drive away from the stop.

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

The State Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been investigating the case. Woodall said Steele has been uncooperative in the investigation.

He was out of jail Friday evening on a $250,000 secured bond that a judge reduced from $500,000. He must also surrender his passport and stay away from the alleged victims. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 7.

Lt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol, had no comment, saying Steele was no longer a member of the agency. He referred all questions to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Steele is among a number of state troopers who have come under fire in recent months for allegations of inappropriate conduct. Several resigned or were fired.