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Suit Accuses Escondido Police of Planting Drugs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Escondido architect convicted of a drug charge and his wife have sued Escondido police, alleging that they planted drugs on him and conducted an illegal search of their home.

John and Pamela Aldridge, whose allegations of police wrongdoing sparked investigations by the FBI and the district attorney, filed separate but identical lawsuits Wednesday. The amount of damages was not specified.

Assistant Chief Mike Stein said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the lawsuits. Stein is not named as a defendant, but Chief Vincent Jimno and several Escondido officers are.

The Aldridges are seeking money for emotional distress and other damages allegedly suffered during a police search of their home and business June 28, 1989.

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Nine months after the searches, Vista Municipal Court Judge Victor E. Ramirez overturned the search warrant for the residence. The lawsuits quote Ramirez accusing Detective Barry Sweeney, who signed the search warrant affidavit, of lying in his declaration.

“This affidavit, the import of it, the statements contained within it, the scope of the warrant that was issued as a result of it are absolutely prepared with reckless disregard for the truth,” Ramirez said. “I can’t say it to you in stronger words than I have said here, that it’s just totally shocking to me.”

In a May interview with The Times, Sweeney dismissed Ramirez’s lecture as “a favor” that the judge was doing for attorney Jose Tafolla, who was representing John Aldridge. He denied doing anything wrong in preparing the affidavit.

Ramirez ruled that a police search of his office was legal, and that John Aldridge was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of possessing methamphetamine. He was sentenced to 90 days in County Jail, but is free while appealing the conviction.

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The lawsuits by the Aldridges alleged that Detective David Sparks planted methamphetamine in John Aldridge’s jeans following an unsuccessful search of his office for drugs. The lawsuit alleges that Aldridge had already been searched by two other officers, who did not find any drugs.

Aldridge was arrested about three months after the couple accused Sparks’ sister, Sherry Sparks Crane, of stealing the couple’s Master Card, according to the lawsuit. About $2,500 in illegal charges were rung up on the card, the Aldridges said.

About 16 months after the theft, Escondido police said they have made no arrests. On Thursday, Stein said that Crane is not a suspect in the case. Crane could not be reached for comment.

The Aldridges said they and the bank that issued the card have been asked by police on five occasions to provide them with the same packet of photocopied receipts. Stein said he had “no idea” why police have requested so many copies of the same receipts.

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The lawsuits allege that Crane’s boyfriend called Pamela Aldridge on April 27, 1989, and said that Crane’s brother “would get even” with the couple.


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