Pubdate: Thu,  8 Apr 2004
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Greg Cunningham
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


Three other counties to pay $15,000 total in sting lawsuit

The cost of settling the Tulia lawsuit seems to be dropping, at least based
on new terms announced Wednesday by four more counties.

For a total of $15,000, four counties have settled their part of the federal
lawsuit stemming from the controversial 1999 Tulia drug sting, but attorneys
for those counties say the remaining defendants shouldn't get their hopes up
about getting off so cheap.

"Armstrong, Gray and Hemphill Counties are actually paying the least amount
of any the counties," said Charles S. Frigerio, a San Antonio lawyer
representing the three counties on behalf of Trident Insurance. "They will
only be paying $5,000 each."

Frigerio's figures appear to be a little off, as his clients aren't getting
off quite as cheaply as Castro County, which will be walking away with no

Houston lawyer Bill Helfland, representing Castro County, said his client
did not join the task force that supervised the Tulia sting until after the
arrests and had no part to play in the lawsuit.

"I'll chalk it up to, at best, it was a mistake to sue them," Helfland said.
"You have to assume they (plaintiffs' attorneys) just didn't know."

The four counties' settlements are a far cry from what has been announced in
the past few weeks as the 30 counties and municipalities named in the
lawsuit work out settlement terms.

The lawsuit reaches back to the 1999 bust, when 46 people were arrested, 39
of them black. After years of controversy, nearly all the Tulia defendants
were pardoned by the governor's office, clearing the way for the federal
lawsuit, which named all the municipalities and counties involved in the
task force.

Amarillo led off the settlement parade last month, agreeing to pay $5
million and disband the task force, which Amarillo headed. Settlements for
several other cities and counties announced in the past few weeks have
ranged up to $50,000.

Attorneys involved in the negotiations said previously that the total for
all the counties and municipalities, excluding Amarillo, would be about $1

Frigerio said his clients got off more cheaply than the other counties
because of less involvement in the task force and the willingness to take a

"Our position was if it was going to go any higher than that, we were
willing to go to trial," Frigerio said. "That was the cost to defend the
suit, and we weren't going any higher."

Attorneys for the remaining counties could not be reached for comment
Wednesday. An attorney for the plaintiffs refused to comment.
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