Pubdate: Fri,  9 Apr 2004
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2004 Associated Press
Author: Betsy Blaney
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


Petition Alleges He Failed To Disclose Undercover Agent's Criminal Past

(AP) - The State Bar of Texas has filed a disciplinary petition against the 
district attorney who prosecuted cases in the since-discredited Tulia drug 
busts, seeking sanctions that could include disbarment.

The petition filed Wednesday in the Texas Supreme Court accuses Terry 
McEachern of not conveying information to defense attorneys about his 
knowledge of the criminal history of Tom Coleman, the lone undercover agent 
in the stings.

Mr. McEachern is also accused of failing to correct testimony by Mr. 
Coleman that he knew was false. In five defendants' trials, Mr. Coleman 
said he had no criminal history and had never been arrested.

Mr. McEachern's punishment could range from a public reprimand to loss of 
his law license. He said Thursday that he had not seen the lawsuit.

Mr. McEachern, the outgoing Swisher County district attorney, has 50 days 
to respond.

After Mr. Coleman's 18-month undercover operation, which ended in July 
1999, 46 people were arrested, 39 of them black. Civil rights groups said 
the busts were racially motivated. Mr. Coleman, 44 and white, is no longer 
in law enforcement.

An investigative panel found just cause that Mr. McEachern had committed 
misconduct, said Dawn Miller, chief disciplinary counsel with the state 
bar. Mr. Coleman is set to stand trial May 24 on aggravated perjury charges 
accusing him of lying in March 2003 during evidentiary hearings related to 
the Tulia drug busts. One of Mr. Coleman's attorneys, however, has filed a 
motion to move the date to September, court records show.
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