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Ex-trooper sentenced for fondling

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PROVO — A former Utah Highway Patrol trooper said he was sorry for the pain and trouble he has caused the family of a teenage girl, whom he allegedly fondled on several occasions.

Steve Pelton, 48, of Orem said Friday what he did was wrong and apologized to the family.

"I'm the sort of person who has done what is right all my life," he said. "I made a mistake."

Pelton originally was charged with one count of forcible sex abuse, a second-degree felony, and two counts of sexual battery. In a plea agreement, Pelton pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual battery, a class-A misdemeanor.

Fourth District Judge Gary Stott sentenced Pelton Friday to 90 days in the county jail and placed him on two years' probation. Pelton will be allowed to keep his job under the jail's work release program and was ordered to serve 50 hours community service.

Prosecutors say that while Pelton and his family lived in Lindon in 1999, he befriended the girl and her family, who were neighbors.

Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson said that Pelton would take the girl on horserides into the foothills. Pelton is accused of touching the girl three times between August of 1999 and March of 2000.

Pelton had worked several years as a highway patrol trooper and had spent the past three years working as a drug and alcohol agent with the Utah Criminal Investigations Bureau before resigning as a law enforcement officer in November of 2000, shortly after charges were filed.

In court, Pelton's attorney, Michael Petro said his client has lost his career, retirement and his standing in his church because of his actions.

Petro said Pelton currently is working for a local towing company to support his family.

Stott said it was "unreasonable" to order Pelton to have no unsupervised contact with underage girls, as is common in some sex cases, mainly because that would affect his relationship with his daughter.

Bryson said Pelton's evaluation indicated he is not likely to re-offend.

Outside of court, the girl's father said his family is pleased with the sentence, adding he still believes Pelton is a decent man deep down.

"He's a good man, all he did was make a mistake," the father said.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com