Tom Coleman crooked cop
Posted in the Odessa Forum
#1 Apr 1, 2014
Tulia drug busts: 10 years later
Some still haunted by controversial drug case
A decade later, the only physical evidence that remains of one of the most controversial drug investigations in state history are whited-out lines in a Swisher County docket book.
The docket book has line after line of names crossed out, representing those Tulia residents arrested 10 years ago on claims they were dealing drugs, and whose cases were subsequently dropped under the glare of national scrutiny.Many Tulia residents and those associated with the July 23, 1999, raid by numerous law enforcement agencies shy away from talking publicly about the incident that catapulted the Swisher County town of about 5,000 into the spotlight and brought the discussion of small-town racism to the forefront. For some, including many of the 47 defendants arrested, the calamity of the investigation and the ensuing drama remains a wound that has not healed.The episode began when dozens of people - most of them poor, African-American and with prior run-ins with the law - were hauled from their beds and paraded in front of local media on the morning of July 23.The arrests were the culmination of a monthslong investigation by the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, with much of the work conducted by undercover officer Tom Coleman. Many of the defendants were subsequently given long prison sentences by juries, and others accepted plea bargains.But cases that first appeared solid began to collapse as Coleman's testimony drew greater and greater scrutiny. It was ultimately determined that Coleman was not credible after he gave conflicting testimony in court. Meanwhile, it was revealed that he had been arrested for theft, a charge for which he was never convicted. But his arrest was initially withheld from the defense, further eroding the credibility of the prosecution.In the end, 35 defendants were pardoned by Gov. Rick Perry on Aug. 22, 2003, and taxpayers in 17 of the counties that participated in the regional task force paid them about $5.9 million as part of a settlement. The defendants split about $4 million, and attorneys were paid the rest.
The Rev. Alan Bean, who used to live in Tulia, started Friends of Justice to fight for the defendants after he and others questioned the drug raids. Today the organization has turned its attention elsewhere but still advocates on behalf of people targeted by the justice system.
He said Tulia was a "tragicsituation for everyone, jurors included."The whole debate kind of hardened into a hero-thug syndrome," he said.
McEachern put implicit trust in Tom Coleman, and (terrible) things happened.Gone are the days when national media crowded into town searching for a glimpse of the defendants or major players.
"I think everybody just wanted to repair," said Tulia Chamber of Commerce President Jeannett Herring. "What they were so upset about is the poor publicity that we got to begin with. I think we've just kept going on."
But the intense media storm hasn't been forgotten. Herring recently traveled to Madison, Wis., where someone mentioned the Tulia raids.
"All we can do is just tell people when they come through,'No, this is still the nice town that it always was,'" she said.
However, Swisher County resident Gary O. Gardner, who along with Bean fought on behalf of the 47, doesn't see it the same way.
He still visits Tulia at least once a week and has found the sting "festers."
"People still carry grudges over that first deal," he said. "(I) still carry grudges. This is a taboo subject."
Just a brief mention of the raids evokes strong reaction, or no response at all.
On a recent afternoon in Tulia, one person had an unflattering description of Gov. Rick Perry, who pardoned the
#2 Apr 1, 2014
I've worked around this guy tom coleman, he tried to rough neck but didnt know what he was doing, he got ran off for trying to tell people how to do there job, hell, he couldn't even do his. Lol. What a chump.
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