Pubdate: Fri,  8 Sep 2000
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2000 Amarillo Globe-News
Contact:  P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166
Fax: (806) 373-0810
Author: Linda Kane


TULIA - A Tulia man was sentenced to 60 years in prison Thursday for selling
nearly five grams of cocaine last summer to an undercover officer whose
credibility was attacked in court.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar White, 24, a black man, was among 43 people - including
40 blacks - arrested last summer after an 18-month undercover operation in

The racial makeup of the sting operation caught the attention of members of
the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice from New York. The
group's mission is to oppose racism in the judicial system, said member
Randy Credico, who attended this week's trial with one other member.

Credico was outraged that White was convicted.

"They shouldn't have had a trial," Credico said Thursday. "They should have
just taken (White) out in the middle of the night and hanged him."

White's conviction rested largely on the testimony of Tom Coleman, a white
undercover officer who conducted the investigation for the Swisher County
Sheriff's Department and the Panhandle Narcotics Task Force in Amarillo.

Although Coleman has been described as an outstanding lawman at times, his
character was challenged throughout the trial.

Four defense witnesses - including a prosecutor, a narcotics investigator, a
former sheriff for whom Coleman worked and a retired banker who did business
with Coleman - testified that Coleman is a liar.

However, several witnesses for the prosecution - including Texas Rangers,
Swisher County Sheriff Larry Stewart and a drug task force officer for whom
Coleman worked during the undercover operation - testified that Coleman is

Coleman gave conflicting statements during his testimony about the time
frame in which he bought drugs from White.

White's attorney, Dwight McDonald of Lubbock, said during closing arguments
Thursday that Coleman could not be trusted.

"Any way you look at this case, it boils down to Tom Coleman," he said.
"This case is really simple. Do you believe Tom Coleman or do you not?"

It took a jury 1 hour, 45 minutes to convict White.

In addition to the prison sentence, White was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

The judge placed a gag order on attorneys and witnesses associated with the

Swisher County District Attorney Terry McEachern, who prosecuted White, said
in April that he thinks Coleman acted lawfully and truthfully in the
undercover operation.

"If I did not 100 percent believe Tom Coleman was telling the truth, I would
not be trying these cases," he said.

Coleman said Thursday, "The jury has spoke for itself."

White faces four more trials for delivery of cocaine. Because of the judge's
order, McEachern could not comment Thursday on whether he is going to pursue
those charges against White.

Several people who attended White's trial Thursday gathered outside the
courthouse afterward to voice their disgust. As McEachern was leaving the
building during the noon recess, Credico told him, "Nice lynch job, pal."

White is the son of Tulia resident Mattie White, who had three other
children charged in connection with last summer's bust.

Two of her children were already sentenced to 12 and 25 years in prison.
Another child has not gone to trial.

"I've never seen my kid (Kareem White) cry until he said, 'You know I'm not
guilty,' " she said. "I knew he'd be found guilty.

"It's just killing me."

Kathy Curry, a member of a watchdog group in Tulia called Friends of
Justice, attended the trial and said that in a county with only 9,000
residents, she thought the trial should have been conducted elsewhere.

"Even if there were two people (on the jury) who didn't believe him
(Coleman), they have to live here," she said. "This is a small town. You let
one person know you hung the jury, and you have to deal with it because you
live here."

Representatives of the Amarillo Chapter of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People have promised to look at the fairness of the
undercover operation.

The majority of the 43 people who were arrested in the operation have been
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