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Saturday, November 5, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Judge gets tough on ex-trooper

Seattle Times staff reporter

A former State Patrol trooper who was sentenced Friday for fondling 10 women during traffic stops on the Eastside staunchly denied any wrongdoing, claiming his victims accused him of sexual misconduct because they are motivated by money.

"There are people who have reason to bring these charges against me ... because money is a good motivator," Michael Idland told King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler.

But Kessler didn't buy Idland's denial and stunned both the prosecutor and defense by ordering the former trooper to pay for the almost 17 months he spent in solitary confinement in the King County Jail plus $15,000 in victims' penalties and other fees, totaling more than $40,000. The judge also ordered Idland to serve four years of probation, despite a joint recommendation from prosecutors and Idland's attorney that the 41-year-old serve only one year probation.

Idland, who was in solitary confinement for his own protection, was given credit for his jail time and was not sentenced to any additional time behind bars.

After Friday's hearing, King County senior deputy prosecutor Scott O'Toole said Kessler "just hammered" Idland with his sentence.

"The judge was clearly making a statement by imposing severe financial penalties and an extremely long period of probation ... [Idland] will be under an incredibly tight rein, which I think will ease the anxiety of the victims."

O'Toole disputed Idland's claim that the women were looking for a payday. Only one victim came forward; the rest were identified by investigators who pored over Idland's DUI records and contacted women he had arrested, O'Toole said.

"These are not people who came and banged on our doors," he said.

Defense attorney Robert Freeby said he didn't expect such a lengthy probation period nor the stiff fines. Regarding Kessler's order that Idland pay the cost of his incarceration, Freeby said, "I've never seen that happen."

Many of Idland's attacks were near the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, according to charging papers. He had a pattern of stopping young women on suspicion of drunken driving and then inappropriately touching them under the guise of conducting searches, prosecutors said.

On Friday, one of Idland's victims addressed the court, asking that Idland be ordered to undergo sexual-deviancy treatment. "I don't feel safe," said the woman, whom The Seattle Times is not naming because she is the victim of a sex crime.

Kessler declined, explaining Idland won't be amenable to treatment because he has denied committing any crime. "It would be a waste of time and money," the judge said.

Steve Fogg, an attorney representing Idland's youngest victim, on Friday filed a claim with the state Attorney General's Office, the seventh such claim filed by Idland's victims. In the new claim, which seeks $500,000 in damages, Fogg said the State Patrol had placed Idland on a job performance improvement plan nine months after he became a commissioned trooper and at least one supervisor recommended that Idland be fired.

Instead, in March 2002, Idland was transferred from Seattle to Bellevue, where he was working when he fondled all 10 women.

"He certainly shouldn't have had a gun and a badge after [the State Patrol] knew he wasn't fit to have a gun and a badge," Fogg said.

State Patrol Capt. Jeff DeVere confirmed Friday that Idland was placed on a job performance improvement plan in January 2002 because of problems with taking responsibility for his actions, his judgment, decision-making, written communications and time management.

Idland completed the plan in June 2002, DeVere said. He said the State Patrol did not learn of the sexual-misconduct allegations until January 2004. DeVere said he did not know of any prior recommendations to fire Idland.

"As soon as we found out about the allegations of misconduct, he was taken off the road," DeVere said. "This type of behavior is clearly not tolerated in this agency. ... The actions of one person, we hope, will not tarnish the good work of 2,200 others."

Idland, who was originally charged with three felonies and eight gross-misdemeanors for fondling 10 women, entered a modified guilty plea — called an Alford plea — to three charges of sexual misconduct Sept. 29 and was released from custody. The Alford plea means Idland does not admit guilt but acknowledges that a jury likely would convict him.

During his time in jail, Idland was drawing his full salary from the State Patrol until submitting his resignation Oct. 10.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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