Saturday, April 02, 2005

Another enormous East Texas drug bust

Seventy three recent arrests make 141 total people indicted as part of an alleged "crack distribution" ring operating out of Longview, an East Texas town which historically has known its share of racial tensions with police. Others were picked up in Kilgore, Marshall and Gladewater. Not many details, and initial media reports were all based on a press release from Eastern District U.S. Attorney Matthew Orwig that for some reason wasn't put on their website. No word either on whether the cases were made with a confidential informant or with undercover officers. Initial reports stated there were 36 new federal indictments and 36 state indictments, which doesn't jibe with the 73 number, but that discrepancy wasn't explained.

This is a different case from the 72 defendants in Palestine who East Texas prosecutors, including Orwig's offices, accused of operating a
crack distribution ring in tiny Palestine, Texas. In the Palestine case, all 72 defendants were black. This new case also appears to have been generated through state federal collaboration, but initial reports do not indicate that a Byrne-grant funded narcotics task force was involved. Instead, the U.S. Attorney is taking credit.

Longview is about 4 times the size of Palestine, and has grown a ton since I grew up in East Texas, but just like in Palestine, the idea that the town supports a 73 person crack distribtion ring, much less 141, seems highly suspect. More probably, a lot of low-level users have been rolled up into the mix.

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