Panel: Anti-Abortion Trooper Deserved Firing State Patrol Appeals Board Says Officer’s Conduct Was ‘Unbecoming,’ Recommends That Dismissal Be Upheld
A former state trooper deserved to be fired for detaining a couple on their way to an abortion clinic, a three-member Washington State Patrol appeals panel has decided.
Lane Jackstadt, 35, who was dismissed in November because of the traffic stop, violated the agency’s code of ethics and engaged in “unbecoming conduct,” the patrol trial board ruled Tuesday.
Jackstadt’s testimony was “inconsistent,” “vague” and marked by a “continued refusal to acknowledge any wrong-doing,” the panel’s written ruling said.
The recommendation, signed by two patrol captains and a rank-and-file trooper, was sent to Patrol Chief Annette Sandberg, who has designated a subordinate to act on it because she formerly represented the troopers’ union as a lawyer.
If the firing is upheld as recommended, a decision on whether to appeal in Thurston County Superior Court could come as early as Friday, said Jerry Karstetter, Jackstadt’s lawyer.
Meanwhile, the couple and their lawyers are considering a lawsuit over the traffic stop July 27, 1994, on Interstate 90 in the suburbs east of Seattle.
Jackstadt stopped Justin Cooper and Deanna Thomas, 20 and 18 at the time, for speeding on Interstate 90 east of Seattle en route to a Planned Parenthood clinic to obtain an abortion.
They testified that the trooper intimidated them into following him to his church for anti-abortion counseling. Thomas had the abortion later.
Jackstadt said he was trying to help two young people who appeared to be in distress. He denied browbeating them into following him to the church.
Jackstadt was charged with unlawful imprisonment and official misconduct, but his trial ended in a hung jury last May in King County Superior Court in Seattle, and prosecutors elected not to seek another trial.
A lawyer for the couple, Franklin W. Shoichet, said they were “elated and vindicated” by the patrol panel’s findings.
Jackstadt was fired for his religious views, Karstetter asserted.
“I’ve never been involved in a more biased proceeding in my career,” he said.
“Believe it or not, even trooper Jackstadt has constitutional rights, and one of those constitutional rights is freedom of religion,” Karstetter said. “There’s an 11th commandment in Washington state: Thou shalt not go against political correctness.”
He suggested that Jackstadt would have gotten a medal if he had escorted the couple to an abortion clinic.
Jackstadt was dismissed in late 1994 for cheating on a promotional exam two years earlier but was reinstated by an arbitrator in June. He has been on administrative leave with pay at $3,543 a month for much of the past 19 months.
Karstetter and Shoichet said their clients were emotionally exhausted.
“Deanna, especially, has suffered some emotional consequences from this incident - not from the abortion, but from this incident,” Shoichet said.
He said the patrol is expected to provide documents sought by the couple soon for review in determining whether to file suit.
Karstetter said a court appeal by Jackstadt probably would have little chance of accomplishing more than an order for another trial board hearing by the patrol. The lawyer said he had spent 600 hours on the case at no charge.
“Lane’s done everything short of move into my spare bedroom the last two years,” he said. “It was extremely emotional to me. I put my family through a lot, and that was nothing compared with what the Jackstadt family went through.”