HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 12 Jailed In Drug Bust Set Free, Agent Indicted
Pubdate: Tue, 17 Jun 2003
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2003 Winnipeg Free Press


Associated Press

TULIA, Texas -- After as much as four years behind bars, 12 people sent to 
prison in a drug bust that brought cries of racism in this Texas Panhandle 
town were freed yesterday by a judge who said they were railroaded by a 
white undercover agent. "I got something to smile about today," Freddie 
Brookins said after the release of his son, Freddie Jr .

The 11 black defendants and one white defendant were released on bail while 
they pursue their appeals. But a special prosecutor has said he will 
dismiss all charges if the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals grants them new 

The racially charged case tore apart this town of 5,000 people and led to 
investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and the Texas Attorney 
General's office.

A bill passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Perry two weeks 
ago cleared the way for the defendants' release while their cases were 
still on appeal.

"There are a great number of people who have a great deal of time, effort 
and faith in each of you invested," state Judge Ron Chapman, who was 
brought out of retirement to preside over a review of the case. The 
undercover agent, Tom Coleman, who worked for a regional drug task force, 
has been indicted on perjury charges.

All 12 were released from the Swisher County Jail on personal recognizance 
bonds. The judge has recommended the appeals court overturn all convictions.

Forty-six people, 39 of them black, were arrested and accused of possessing 
cocaine following an 18-month undercover operation. Coleman claimed he 
bought drugs from the defendants, but he worked alone and used no audio or 
video surveillance. And no drugs or money were found during the arrests.

Thirty-eight defendants were convicted on Coleman's uncorroborated word or 
accepted plea bargains for fear they would get long prison sentences. In 
seven other cases, the charges were dismissed. And one defendant died 
before his trial. The rest of the 38 not covered by yesterday's release had 
already been paroled or released on probation.
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