Two North Dakota Highway Patrol officers have been fired: one for touching a woman inappropriately at a party and another for having an affair on duty and then lying about it.
According to a criminal affidavit obtained by local news outlet KX News, North Dakota Highway Patrol Lieutenant Steven Johnson has been charged with a misdemeanor count of sexual assault, but he is claiming that charge was filed in revenge for firing a sergeant.
Johnson was the patrol commander for the Southwest Region. He was stationed in Grand Forks for a number of years before moving west. He was Sergeant Travis Skar's supervisor in the department's Southwest Region.
Johnson Accused of Touching a Woman Under Her Bra After He Fired Skar
According to the criminal complaint, Johnson, his wife, Skar, and two other people decided to use Johnson's hot tub after a night of partying just before Christmas in 2020.
"They had been out that evening and, as I understand it, had been drinking," said Cass County Assitant State's Attorney Ryan Younggren, who is investigating the case as a special prosecutor to avoid a conflict of interest.
Several months later, Johnson's lawyer Chris Redmann said, the lieutenant fired Skar after learning that he was having an affair on duty and had lied about it. Redmann claims the same day Skar was fired, a woman went to Bismarck police and reported that Johnson touched her under her bra while she slept on his couch on the night they had partied and used Johnson's hot tub.
Johnson Denies Allegations, Alleges 'Revenge' by Skar
Johnson "vehemently denies the accusations against him. He volunteered to take and passed a polygraph," according to Redmann. The lieutenant was charged nearly a year after the incident. "There's always more evidence than is simply filed with the court," said Younggren.
Johnson's lawyer claims this is a case of retaliation. "This case reeks of revenge (with) a clear motive for the alleged victim to lie," Redmann said. He went on to say his region of troopers continue to support their former lieutenant, saying, "He was the quintessential boy scout of the patrol."
Younggren would not directly respond to the revenge claim. "What I'm focused on is responding in the courtroom and dealing with the evidence that we have and, at the appropriate stages, presenting it when it's needed," he said.
"We look forward to his (Johnson's) trial date, an acquittal and his ability to return to the highway patrol once he proves his innocence," Redmann said. Johnson is scheduled to go on trial in February. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a year in jail.