Utah cop accused of mishandling explicit images loses job

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A police officer accused of showing off explicit images of a University of Utah student while investigating an extortion case she filed before her 2018 death has lost his job, officials said Friday.

Officer Miguel Deras’ employment with the Logan City Police Department ended effective immediately after an internal review of an investigation released by the state’s Department of Public Safety, Chief Gary Jensen said in a statement. The investigation concluded that Deras “mishandled sensitive evidence” pertaining to 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey’s case while he was employed with the university’s police department.

“The conclusions drawn in the DPS report are inconsistent with the high expectations and standards placed upon our officers by the community and our department,” Jensen said.

The investigation, released Wednesday, found that a group of university officers made inappropriate comments about explicit photos of McCluskey shortly before she was shot and killed by a man she had briefly dated.

Her death has roiled the institution and raised serious questions about how it handled her repeated reports that the man was harassing her before her death, including extorting her with the images she had sent him when they were involved.

An attorney for Deras has previously denied bragging about the photos. He did show them during a routine briefing, but only to ask how they should be handled and stored and did not make inappropriate comments, his attorney Jeremy Jones said.

“From my client’s recollection, he never participated in that. He showed the photos in briefing. He didn’t ‘smoke and joke’ about the photos at any time,” he said.

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Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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