Swisher County attacked its crack problem with the sort of campaign that has become commonplace since Ronald Reagan declared war on drugs almost two decades ago. Using funds from a regional drug task force, the local sheriff hired an undercover agent, who began making buys in and around Tulia. Only a select few knew about the deep cover operation. But even those who did were not prepared for the results: over an eighteen-month period, in a town so small it doesn't even have a Dairy Queen, the agent allegedly made more than 100 controlled buys of illegal narcotics. Early on the morning of July 23, the arrests finally came. By the end of the week, it was evident that the forty-one suspects targeted by the sting had something in common. Thirty-five of the arrestees came from Tulia's tiny black community, which numbers no more than 350. Ten percent of the town's black population had been taken down by one undercover agent. [...] But race is not the only troubling aspect of last summer's drug bust in Tulia. There was a notable absence of drugs - at least, in any appreciable quantity - in the Tulia drug underworld exposed by Agent Coleman, and the evidence presented didn't seem to fit the patterns of drug use in the community. And Coleman, upon whose sole testimony virtually all of the prosecutions were built, has a questionable past of his own. [...] Then there is the evidence: the drugs Coleman allegedly bought in Tulia. Coleman made contact with a community of low-income crack smokers, primarily young black men like Donnie Smith. But strangely, almost every buy Coleman made was of powdered cocaine. Only a handful involved crack or marijuana. Such irregularities didn't seem to matter to the Swisher County juries that began handing down verdicts and sentences last winter. "Just mention drugs, and you can get a conviction in the Panhandle," one defense attorney later said. The first two trials resulted in verdicts of ninety-nine and 434 years, respectively. Most amazing have been the sentences for defendants with no prior felony convictions, who would otherwise have been eligible for probation. Freddie Brookins, twenty-two, received twenty years for one count of delivering an eight ball. He had no prior record. Another defendant with no priors, twenty-three-year-old Kizzie Henry, got twenty-five years. [...] virtually everyone caught in the bust was charged with selling powder cocaine, in some instances up to a half-dozen counts. Tulia doesn't even have a fast food restaurant, much less a bar or nightclub. The per capita income is $11,000. Yet suddenly powdered cocaine, a drug normally associated with affluent users, seemed to be everywhere - at least everywhere in Tulia's hardscrabble black community. And while powder was everywhere, it only seemed to appear in small quantities - just enough to constitute a second-degree felony. Could there really be forty coke dealers in a rural Panhandle community? "Where the drug addicts at? Where the big houses? Where all the gold teeth?" Smith asked.
12/19/2001: vive la france
12/19/2001: princess, redux
12/19/2001: yemen and rumsfeld
12/18/2001: you're NOT in the army now
12/18/2001: interesting donation
12/18/2001: shame on winn dixie, indeed
12/18/2001: saudi princess
12/17/2001: new resolve
12/17/2001: a victim of the attack ... yeah, right
12/17/2001: polluters ho!