HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Hispanics Were Targets In Drug Cases, Attorneys Say
Pubdate: Tue, 22 Jan 2002
Source: Denver Rocky Mountain News (CO)
Copyright: 2002, Denver Publishing Co.
Author: JAMIE STENGLE, Associated Press Writer


Attorneys for Hispanics accused or convicted of narcotics charges in which 
the drugs turned out to be fake are suggesting that law-enforcement 
officials may have targeted their clients _ some of whom were deported as a 

Outrage in the legal community appears to be growing, as District Attorney 
Bill Hill announced that his office is working to dismiss 59 cases, some 
involving two Dallas police undercover narcotics officers who are on 
administrative leave and at least one paid confidential informant who no 
longer works for the department.

Thirty-nine people had been arrested as a result of the 59 cases.

"The majority of defendants involved are Mexican nationals, which to me 
looks like they were targets," attorney Cynthia Barbare said.

Dallas attorney Tony Wright was more pointed, calling the cases "the 
epitome of racial profiling."

"The police knew they were picking on people that would be deported," he said.

"(Hispanics) need to be marching on City Hall," Wright said. "They're 
upset. They just don't know what to do about it. They came from a country 
where corruption is the standard. Now they just don't know who to trust."

Dallas Police Chief Terrell Bolton has said the department is reviewing 70 
narcotics buys initiated by a paid confidential informant since 1999. Tests 
on seized evidence found no drugs or only minute amounts of illegal 
material contained in gypsum.

The FBI has been asked to investigate, Hill said Friday.

"We're watching to see how this unfolds," said Will Harrell, executive 
director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

"If all these cases are dismissed and these people are released, litigation 
may not be necessary," Harrell said. "Here it seems that the prosecution is 
trying to make redress."

Past ACLU investigations have found gaping holes in the justice of drug 
control operations, he said.

"One is a lot of people have been prosecuted on the word of one person 
alone _ most of time a paid confidential informant," Harrell said.

A new law stipulating that a person cannot be convicted of a drug 
conviction on the sole basis of a confidential informant's word may remedy 
such situations, he said.

Dallas attorney Karen Pennington, who handles deportation cases, said an 
illegal immigrant deported based on an aggravated felony conviction for a 
controlled substance would have limited options in returning to the United 
States. One way might be on a witness visa, she said.

Barbare said she's filing civil rights lawsuits on behalf of her two 
clients involved in fake drug cases. In both cases lab tests revealed the 
alleged drugs were gypsum.

"There's no way they couldn't have been aware of problems with the officers 
and informants in these cases," she said. "Typically you don't just get a 
search warrant on uncorroborated evidence of an informant."

"A lot of people sat in jail with their liberties violated," she said.

Her client, Abel Santos, 26, was a mechanic at his family's shop in south 
Dallas when he was arrested July 16 on a charge of possession with intent 
to deliver a controlled substance over 400 grams, Barbare said.

An informant claimed he had gone into the shop and Santos had showed him 
drugs. Then police got a search warrant and found the alleged drugs in an 
old pickup truck outside the garage, Barbare said.

The field test came back positive for cocaine, but lab results showed the 
substance was gypsum. The charge was dismissed Nov. 1, but Santos, who 
emigrated to the United States illegally some 15 years ago, was deported.

"At first, I thought it was a mistake," Santos said in a telephone 
interview from Monterrey, Mexico. "This is the kind of thing that happens 
somewhere else, like in Mexico, but not in the United States."

"I've never done cocaine, never sold cocaine, never had cocaine," said 
Santos, who had been living with his family in south Dallas. "When they 
said I had drug charges, I couldn't believe it."

Santos, who used to make $600 a week, now does similar work in Monterrey 
making $150 a week. He says he would like to return, but he doesn't know if 
that's possible.

"We're trying to see what we can work out with an immigration attorney," 
Barbare said. "I don't know how successful we'll be. I think it's going to 
be difficult."

Attorney Bill Stovall is also working with clients involved in fake drug 
cases, including one who was sent back to Mexico.

"Most of the ones involved in this to my knowledge had no type of prior 
record," Stovall said. "They just worked hard and tried to make a living in 
this country and all of a sudden they're wrapped up in a nightmare."
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