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2003-04-25

Ex-Agent Indicted in Tulia Drug Cases

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The undercover officer who ran a controversial drug sting in Tulia four years ago was indicted yesterday on charges of lying under oath during recent hearings to determine if the convictions he obtained were legitimate.

In 1998 and 1999 Tom Coleman single-handedly ran an undercover sting operation that ended with the arrest of 46 residents of Tulia. Coleman never presented any audio or video evidence connecting the residents to a crime.

But local courts convicted 38 of the residents, most of whom were poor and African American. 13 remain in jail.

Yesterday a Swisher County grand jury handed down a three-count indictment that accuses Coleman of making false statements about legal problems he faced in another county while working for the Panhandle Drug Task Force.

If convicted, Coleman, who is no longer in law enforcement, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each of the three charges. In Tulia, Texas, Tom Coleman has been indicted on three counts of perjury.

Coleman is the sheriff’s deputy in Tulia whose sole testimony led to controversial drug sting that sent 46 people, mostly poor African Americans, to jail.

Charges against the 46 are being dropped while Coleman himself may be going to jail.

  • Randy Credico, Director of the William Moses Kunstler Fund for racial justice.
  • Jeff Blackburn, Civil rights lawyer and head of the Tulia Legal Defense Project.

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