Pubdate: Wed, 19 May 2004
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Greg Cunningham
Bookmark: (Tulia, Texas)


The 46 people arrested in a 1999 drug bust officially ended their parts in 
the ongoing Tulia saga with the dismissal of a federal civil rights 
lawsuit. Following the negotiation of a $6 million settlement by all 
parties involved in the suit, U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson signed 
an order dated April 30 dismissing the action, which was filed by two of 
the Tulia defendants.

The one-page order dismisses the lawsuit and assigns all legal costs to the 
parties that accrued the costs.

The two women who filed the suit - Tonya White and Zury Bossett - were 
among 46 people, 39 of them black, who were arrested in 1999 after an 
18-month undercover investigation by itinerant lawman Tom Coleman.

The arrests spurred accusations of racism and official misconduct and 
eventually led Gov. Rick Perry to issue pardons for nearly all the defendants.

The federal lawsuit was filed last year against the 30 cities and counties 
that made up the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, which 
supervised the undercover operation.

The city of Amarillo led off the settlement process by agreeing to pay $5 
million and disband the task force, which the city headed. The other cities 
and counties negotiated settlement amounts ranging from $80,000 to $5,000 
to make up the remaining $1 million.

Although the lawsuit was filed by only two of the Tulia defendants, the 
settlement covers everyone who was arrested in the sting.

Adam Levin, an attorney with the Washington law firm of Hogan and Hartson, 
said the final disposition of the suit gives all the parties involved a 
chance to move on.

"This case was never solely about the money, it was about bringing closure 
to our clients whose lives have been tainted by the Tulia drug sting," 
Levin said. "I hope the dismissal will bring some closure to the residents 
of the Panhandle while also serving as a lesson for how justice should be 

Although the part for the Tulia defendants has ended, other aspects of the 
controversy are still alive.

Coleman is facing prosecution on three counts of aggravated perjury for 
allegedly lying under oath in evidentiary hearings. His trial was set for 
this month, but it has been delayed as prosecutors seek a change of venue.

District Attorney Terry McEachern also will be facing a court date where he 
will answer a complaint filed by the State Bar of Texas alleging 
prosecutorial misconduct. McEachern, who lost his bid for re-election in 
March, could lose his law license if he loses at the trial, which should 
happen later this year.
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