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Wrongly accused duo to get $450,000

Salt Lake City, the county and the state have agreed to pay $450,000 to a Department of Corrections officer and his wife who were wrongly accused of dealing drugs six years ago.

James and Cynthia Haywood, parents of four children, were arrested in March 1993 after a confidential informant duped investigators into believing the Haywoods were selling drugs. The informant had been released from prison to lead investigators to sources providing drugs to inmates.Shortly after the couple were arrested, investigators discovered the informant, David Tindall, known as "Frosty," staged recorded telephone conversations and videos to make it appear he was making drug deals with the Haywoods. A woman in a surveillance video was not Cynthia Haywood as he told investigators and a voice on the telephone was not that of James Haywood as the informant claimed.

When investigators learned their evidence against the Haywoods was phony, they dropped charges and released the Haywoods from jail. Tindall was later charged and convicted of providing false information to police.

James Haywood had worked at the prison for eight years and was placed on leave following the arrest. Cynthia Haywood has worked for 14 years as a telecommunications analyst for the University of Utah. Neither has a criminal record.

The Haywoods filed a federal lawsuit saying their civil rights were violated. They said their children were harassed at school and their reputations damaged when their arrests were reported by the local media.

They said Metro Narcotics Task Force investigators Kelly Nye and Gary Sterner and Department of Corrections officers Ronald Benson and Leo Lucy had reason to doubt the validity of evidence provided by Tindall.

They also argued the state, county and city did not adequately train the investigators in dealing with informants. Nye was loaned to the task force by the city and Sterner the county.

The answering machine and hidden video camera used in the investigation were both controlled by Tindall. Also, investigators recognized a hat worn in the video by the woman who was supposedly Cynthia Haywood as the same hat a different woman had worn who bought drugs from Tindall a few days earlier.

The state, city and county said the information investigators had at the time gave them probable cause to arrest the Haywoods. They said the evidence provided by Tindall was screened by the District Attorney's Office and the arrest warrant was signed by a judge.

However, the judge was not told the Haywoods had no criminal record or that a confidential informant provided the evidence. The judge was also not told that James Haywood earlier reported an inmate who contacted him about drugs or that he told prison officials prior to his arrest that Tindall contacted him.

The case was settled before a scheduled trial was set to begin last week. Salt Lake County will pay the Haywoods $200,000. The state and city will each pay $125,000.