Pubdate: Fri, 21 Mar 2003
Source: Daily Texan (TX Edu)
Copyright: 2003 Daily Texan
Author: Betsy Blaney (Associated Press)
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


TULIA - Tom Coleman, the lone undercover agent in the controversial 1999 
drug sting operation in Tulia, stood by his actions Thursday in an 
evidentiary hearing ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"My cases are not questionable," he said. "I stand by what I did."

A short time later, though, Coleman testified that there were discrepancies 
in other cases in which he made drug buys, including one woman whose case 
was tossed out because she proved she was in Oklahoma at the time Coleman 
said he bought drugs from her.

"There are some mess-ups in four cases," Coleman testified in the 
evidentiary hearing.

Coleman had a simple one-word "Yes," for defense attorney Mitchell Zamoff 
when Zamoff asked him, "Really, but for your word, there's no evidence in 
any of these cases that these buys took place."

The convictions of four men, whose sentences were as long as 90 years, were 
upheld on direct appeal. However, the appeals court asked the trial court 
for clarification on whether Jason Jerome Williams, Christopher Eugene 
Jackson, Freddie Brookins Jr. and Joe Moore were convicted solely on 
Coleman's word. The court also wants to know whether the state failed to 
turn over information from Coleman's background that may have impeached his 

It was Coleman's uncorroborated testimony that led to prison sentences for 
many of the 46 people arrested - 39 of whom were black - in the July 1999 
busts, which civil rights groups have claimed were racially motivated.

Coleman worked alone during an 18-month undercover operation in Swisher 
County and used no audio or video surveillance, often writing notes on his 
leg about drug buys he'd made.

Coleman will return to testify Friday at the Swisher County Courthouse in 

Jeff Blackburn, an Amarillo attorney representing two of the four men 
involved in the hearings, said Coleman is an elusive witness.

"I think the problem many attorneys encountered with [Coleman] in the past 
is they don't stay on him," Blackburn said. "We're going to keep asking 
questions until we get good answers."

Swisher County District Attor-ney Terry McEachern, who prosecuted nearly 
all of the drug cases, said he was pleased with the way the proceedings are 
going. He declined to comment further.

Earlier Thursday, Swisher County Sheriff Larry Stewart testified that 
Coleman's reaction was "surprise and disbelief" in August 1998 when Stewart 
approached him with an arrest warrant for theft and abuse of official 
capacity out of Cochran County.

Coleman, who is no longer in law enforcement, was charged during the 
18-month undercover operation. Coleman paid restitution, and the criminal 
charges against him were dropped.

Defense attorneys claimed Coleman knew about the pending charges in May 
1998 because of a waiver of arraignment form he signed in Cochran County 
with his attorney on May 30, 1998.
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