A retired E.&J. Gallo Winery vice president who sued several law enforcement agencies after she was injured during a search of her house has won a $40,000 settlement.
The money wasn't all Sue McClelland got.
The settlement triggered a face-to-face meeting where McClelland discussed what happened with top law enforcement officials and shared her point of view.
"I had no argument with the search, but I did have an argument about the way they conducted it," McClelland said.
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McClelland, 75, sued Modesto, Stanislaus County, the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency and several individual officers after a late-night search in April 2008 left her body bruised and her home ransacked.
McClelland said she's satisfied with the settlement. She used some of the money to pay medical bills, she said. The incident left her with permanent scars on her arms and destroyed a $5,000 door on her house, she said.
In a lawsuit filed last year in U.S. District Court in Fresno, McClelland charged that officers violated her constitutional rights, detained her illegally and were negligent in performing their jobs.
She said in a court filing that she sued in the hope the law enforcement agencies would change their policies and prevent a repeat of what happened to her.
McClelland met with Sheriff Adam Christianson, Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden and the head of the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency for more than an hour in December.
"We had a nice discussion," McClelland said. "We didn't necessarily agree on everything, but I appreciate their willingness to talk about it."
"Hopefully," she added, "they've learned something from it."
McClelland said law enforcement leaders were "noncomittal" about whether the incident would prompt a change in policy. Harden said he couldn't comment on the settlement because he hadn't seen the final version. Christianson couldn't be reached for comment.
McClelland was a renowned advertising executive who retired from Gallo in 2006 after a 35-year career with the company. She led the Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler campaign and persuaded TV stations to run the first commercials for sanitary napkins in the 1960s.
McClelland wasn't the target of the search. Officers were after a man who they believed was selling methamphetamine, according to a search warrant filed with the court.
With the help of an informant wearing a wire, detectives with the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency tailed the man to horse stables and a detached garage behind McClelland's house. The man was renting a barn and pastures on McClelland's rural property east of Modesto. McClelland evicted him after the raid.
McClelland gave the following account of the search in court filings:
She awoke to the sound of officers pounding on her door at 9:45 p.m. Assuming they were burglars, she pushed a panic alarm. Several armed men who did not identify themselves confronted McClelland at her door. Wearing a T-shirt and underwear, McClelland was taken outside. She tripped and fell, sustaining injuries on her arms, shin, hands and neck.
Officers recovered two cell phones, a metal ice cream scoop, a digital scale and a baggie with an unidentified white powder from the barn on McClelland's property. McClelland, who has two artificial hips, said she rarely visited the barn.
The city and county each will pay half of the $40,000 settlement, said Stanislaus County Counsel Jack Doering. He called the agreement "appropriate" because McClelland incurred damage and did nothing wrong.
"It's an unfortunate occurrence that happened to Mrs. McClelland, and we're happy that everyone was able to resolve this on terms that were beneficial and good for everyone," Doering said. "She was a law-abiding, stand-up citizen and it was a shock to her conscience that this could ever come to pass."
Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2378. Follow her at Twitter.com/BeeReporter.