Pubdate: Sat, 27 Sep 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press
Author: Kevin Blackistone
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


Undercover Agent Defends Texas Drug Arrests in '60 Minutes' Interview, 
Despite Pardons

LUBBOCK, Texas Sept. 26 - A former undercover agent who faces perjury 
charges related to his part in the racially charged drug busts in Tulia 
says he's proud of what he did and is no racist, despite using a racial 
epithet "a lot." The epithet is "common slang" and "a greeting," Tom 
Coleman tells CBS' "60 Minutes" journalist Ed Bradley in Sunday's telecast.

But he tells Bradley, who is black, that he wouldn't use the racial slur 
with him. "Oh, no sir, not you," Coleman says, according to a news release 
from the show.

Thirty-eight people, almost all of them black, were convicted on Coleman's 
testimony after the 1999 drug busts in Tulia, a Texas Panhandle town of 
about 5,100 residents 70 miles north of Lubbock. Authorities found no drugs 
or money during the 46 arrests there.

Last month, Gov. Rick Perry granted pardons to 35 of those convicted. Civil 
rights groups claimed the busts were racially motivated. Coleman is white.

The interview, conducted at Coleman's home this summer, has drawn the 
interest of the special prosecutor in his perjury case. Rod Hobson said 
Friday he plans to seek a subpoena for the entire interview not just what 
is aired as possible evidence at Coleman's trial.

Coleman, 44 and no longer in law enforcement, was indicted in April 
following testimony he gave at post-trial hearings this spring. He has been 
interviewed at least twice before, with an Amarillo television station and 
the BBC, but none since being charged.

"I have no idea what's in the interview, but obviously if he's talking 
about the allegations against him, that's evidence in a criminal case," 
Hobson said.

Coleman's attorney, John H. Read II, said his client did nothing wrong. "He 
did nothing inappropriate and we'll prove that," Read said.

In the interview, Coleman said he stands behind his work.

"I didn't intentionally target anyone in Tulia," Coleman said. "It turned 
out that way. It's just where the road led me."

"The defendants know when it boils down to it ... they handed me the dope 
and I handed them the money."

He tells Bradley the ordeal has been hard on him.

"Well, its took my career away from me, but I'm surviving," Coleman says. 
"It's been hard...but I'm proud of what I did in Tulia."
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