A federal judge has cleared the way for a former prison guard and his wife to sue the Utah Department of Corrections and city and county officials over bogus drug-trafficking charges.

No trial date was set by U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell for the lawsuit filed by ex-Utah State Prison officer James Haywood and his wife, Cynthia, of Sandy.Campbell ruled that police violated the Haywoods' civil rights when they misled a judge who authorized their arrests. Prison officials blamed the wrongful arrests on misinformation supplied by an informant, David Darnell Tindall.

However, Campbell declared that the couple's arrests probably were the result of the investigators' own incompetence and dis-hon-esty.

The probe began in early 1993 after prison investigators Ron Benson and Leo Lucey freed Tindall, a cocaine dealer, to set up people suspected of smuggling drugs into the Draper prison. Also involved in the investigation were Salt Lake City police officer Kelly Nye and sheriff's deputy Gary Sterner, then members of the Metro Narcotics Strike Force.

The defendants unsuccessfully argued to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that their official actions were shielded from civil liability.

Assistant City Attorney Steven Allred said he plans to meet with attorneys for the state and county to discuss a possible appeal to the 10th Circuit Court.

In her 28-page decision of March 24, Campbell found the investigators violated the Haywoods' constitutional protections against unwarranted search and seizure by portraying Tindall as a credible witness in probable cause statements.

Campbell wrote that in reality, the officers suspected Tindall of compromising other investigations and knew he was abusing cocaine purchased in undercover operations.

The Haywoods, who are African-American, alleged they were targeted with false charges in retaliation for James Haywood's race discrimination claim against the prison. However, Campbell rejected that claim, saying the couple had not shown the defendants were motivated by racism or that they knew about Haywood's discrimination suit.

In a separate lawsuit against Benson, Tindall contends the investigator pressured him to frame the Haywoods, then had his parole revoked after Tindall refused to cooperate.

According to parole records, however, Tindall's parole was revoked because he used drugs during the Haywood probe.