Deputy faces lawsuit in federal court

It was a hot evening, Aug. 10, 2005 -- 93 degrees, according to weather records.

David Aragonez and Salvador Lozano had just come in from work and were at Aragonez' mother's home on Sterling Avenue in Highland.

They were loading some tools into the back of a pickup truck when a white car drove by slowly. Aragonez says he watched it because there was a white man and a black man inside, a rarity in the neighborhood.

The car stopped and two officers stepped out of the car -- Deputy Alvin Huff and CHP Officer P. Recatto.

Defense attorney Ann Cunningham says Huff ordered Aragonez to put his hands behind his back. Lozano was in the garage and came out carrying a generator.

Aragonez and his nephew, Lozano, kept asking why? as they were being arrested. They were handcuffed and placed in the back of the police car, according to the defense attorney.

A tape recording released in court later only included Huff's voice, never Recatto's.

“Huff didn't accuse the men of anything,” Cunningham said. “He just used his authority to handcuff them, hogtie them and put them in the back of the Crown Victoria.”

As they drove on the 1-215, Aragonez suggested to Lozano that they kick out the windows to try to summon help. Aragonez had seen a highway sign saying “Barstow,” and says he was afraid they were being taken to the desert to be killed.

Cunningham says neither knew what they were being arrested for until they were booked for damage to the police car and gang affiliation.

After the windows were kicked out, the car was stopped and the officers called for backup.

At some point the two suspects were maced, Cunningham says, and paramedics were called because Lozano suffered from asthma.

Cunningham says Aragonez was placed in a second car with the heater on, still handcuffed in the back seat, while paramedics worked with Lozano.

Cunningham says she first got involved in the case when Aragonez talked to her in court. Eventually, she took Lozano's case and Wally Farrell took the Aragonez case.

Lozano spent eight months in jail and Aragonez spent two months in jail awaiting trial, according to court records.

The defense investigation revealed the tape recording.

Recatto subsequently left San Bernardino and went to work in Los Angeles, according to Cunningham.

The case against Aragonez and Lozano was dismissed Oct. 10, 2006, leading to a federal suit against the deputies, filed Aug. 8, 2007.

That suit is to be heard in federal court in Riverside on Jan. 6.

“The tape shows they had absolutely no reason to even approach David and Sal,” said Cunningham. “It shows Huff committed perjury on the stand and these two men spent months in jail for no reason.”

Cunningham says this is not Huff's first problem. When he lived in Highland, even his neighbors had a restraining order against him, she said. She added that Huff had refused to give any statements, even in deposition, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights protecting him from self-incrimination.

Sheriff's Information Officer Cindy Beavers says Huff is still employed by the Sheriff's Department.

Calls to Huff's attorney were not returned.

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