Pubdate: Thu, 28 Aug 2003
Source: Tyler Morning Telegraph (TX)
Copyright: 2003 T.B. Butler Publishing Company, Inc.
Author: Associated Press
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


TULIA, Texas (AP) - Residents and elected officials in this town with
the motto "The richest soil and the finest people" announced steps
Thursday to improve its image after controversial drug busts by a
now-indicted undercover agent in 1999.

Thursday, the town appointed a six-member civilian complaint review board
called "Tulia: Proving Our Motto." The board includes two Hispanics, two
blacks and two whites but does not have any legal authority.

"Our main concern is to look to the future and forget the past," board
member Angie Trevino said.

Of the 46 people arrested in the busts, 39 were black, prompting civil
rights groups to claim the drug operation was racially motivated.

It also brought negative, worldwide media attention to the small
farming community of about 5,100 residents 70 miles north of Lubbock.
No drugs or money were found during the arrests.

The town also plans to form a separate community action committee that
will be made up of as many as 30 residents to try and bring jobs to
the area and to help create a youth center.

An effort to reshape the town's image began shortly after June 16,
when 12 defendants still imprisoned on the drug charges were released.

The effort included the parents of two of those imprisoned, Tulia
police Chief Jim McCaslin, Tulia Mayor Boyd Vaughn, Swisher County
Sheriff Larry Stewart and Swisher County Judge Harold Keeter.

Freddie Brookins Sr., whose son served 3 1/2 years of a 20-year
sentence, stood in the background in the parking lot of the Swisher
County Courthouse as Trevino fielded reporters' questions. Afterward,
he said he believes the review board will provide an avenue for
residents of all colors to seek fair treatment.

"When you have equality, you don't have a lot of issues," Brookins
said. "We're going to put this town back together."

Earlier in June, Gov. Rick Perry signed a bill passed by legislators
that called for the release pending a review of cases against the 38
people prosecuted in the busts by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Based on the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole,
on Aug. 22 Perry pardoned 35 of the 38 who were prosecuted. Three of
those convicted were ineligible to seek pardons because of separate
legal issues.

Perry granted the pardons based on the questionable testimony of Tom
Coleman, the undercover drug agent who now faces perjury charges.

The convictions on the Tulia charges are not automatically wiped from
their records but their attorneys are working to get those convictions
expunged, said Vanita Gupta, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense

The special prosecutor assigned to the case was not expected to oppose
the move, she said.

Meanwhile, Swisher County commissioners and Tulia's city council have
passed racial profiling bans. The city passed its resolution Aug. 12
and the county passed its Monday. The town also is seeking to improve
drug treatment resources and facilities.

"We're trying to turn a negative into a positive," Keeter said. "I
think the community is ready to move on." 
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