Pubdate: Mon,  9 Feb 2004
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst
Author: Associated Press
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


TULIA -- Tom Coleman, the former cop discredited in the fallout from drug
arrests he made in Tulia five years, will go on trial for aggravated perjury
May 24 in the same courtroom where many in the racially charged busts were

Swisher County officials will send out 350 summonses -- twice the usual
number -- to select a jury, said Brenda Hudson, the county clerk. If
convicted, Coleman faces two to 10 years in prison.

A call to Coleman's attorney, John H. Read II, was not immediately returned

At a pretrial hearing in January, Read said Coleman is innocent.

Coleman, 44, was indicted on three counts of aggravated perjury in April by
a Swisher County grand jury. The indictment alleges he lied under oath
during a March evidentiary hearing held to determine if four black men
arrested during Coleman's undercover drug bust received fair trials. The
testimony involved his employment as a Cochran County sheriff's deputy.

The hearing was halted April 1 when retired state district Judge Ron Chapman
said Coleman was "simply not a credible witness under oath." Chapman also
recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals grant new trials to
everyone convicted as a result of the busts.

In July 1999, 46 people -- 39 of whom are black -- were arrested in Tulia
where Coleman had worked alone in an 18-month undercover operation.
Authorities found no drugs or money during the arrests and Coleman had no
audio or visual evidence to corroborate the busts.

The arrests put an international spotlight on the farming town of about
5,000 and led civil rights groups to claim it was racially motivated.
Coleman is white.

In June, the 13 defendants still imprisoned were released pending a ruling
by the appeals court.

In August, Gov. Rick Perry pardoned 35 of the 38 who were prosecuted solely
on Coleman's word.

Also in August, two woman whose drug charges were dropped after they proved
they were not in Tulia at the time Coleman claimed he bought drugs from them
filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Amarillo. In the ongoing
lawsuit, Zuri Bossett and Tonya White accuse area law enforcement officials
of violating their constitutional rights.
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