Monday, July 24, 2006

The Booty Wooty Profile

Tulia, Texas was my introduction to the criminal justice system. The people in the churches I served didn't get indicted; or if they did they didn't tell me about it.

The Beans pulled into Tulia just as Sheriff Larry Stewart was arresting Tom Coleman on theft charges. A year later so many people had been arrested on Mr. Coleman's word that the Swisher County jail had to contract with lockups within a fifty mile radius to make room for all the black bodies.

The Coleman sting became a cause celebre in the local media. Mike Garrett, editor of the now defunct Tulia Sentinel, could hardly contain his enthusiasm. “The fact that our sting operation made big front-page headlines in the Amarillo Globe-News and on the Amarillo TV stations will hopefully show other Panhandle communities that we don’t like these scumbags doing business in our town. Now it’s up to the courts to vigorously prosecute the traffickers to the point where we won’t see them back on our streets for another 5 to 20 years if at all.”

“One of the local newspapers called the drug sting defendants “scumbags” this week," I told my Baptist Sunday school class a few days later. "I don't know any of these people, but shouldn't they be presumed innocent until they get their day in court?”

“Scumbags is exactly what they are,” a middle-aged man across the table from me growled. Molten rectitude smoldered in his eyes and his mouth was twisted in rage.

“It’s these athletes that really get me riled,” a local businessman confided privately when the class was over. “We play them up like they’re some kinda heroes just ‘cause they win a few football and basketball games, and they reckon they can get away with anything. Smoking dope, selling drugs to our kids, taking advantage of our girls—anything! You try to do everything you can for these people to help them pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and they always disappoint you.”

Four months later Joe (Booty Wooty) Moore was sentenced to 90 years on Tom Coleman's uncorroborated word. Tulia's black community assured me that Moore had never "messed" with Larry Stewart's undercover man and I believed them. But if Joe Moore could get a virtual life sentence on the basis of Coleman-plus-nothing, one pointed finger could convict anybody.

Experience forced me to amend my thesis slightly. If you fit the Booty Wooty profile (poor, uneducated, black or brown) the state of Texas can get a conviction without real evidence of guilt. This realization turned a Baptist preacher into a carping activist.

The media treats Tulia like a vestige of America's Jim Crow past. But the problem isn't just Tulia and it isn't just Texas; move to the federal system and the horror stories proliferate. For the past two years I have been working with Ann Colomb and her family in Church Point, Louisiana. While Scott Henson rests from his prodigious labors I will tell you how these United States transformed an innocent mother of five into Tony Soprano.


Anonymous said...

I worked at the federal level and you have no real idea how scarey it is.

For example, asset forfeiture started out as a very effective tool against the traffickers. Now it's a recruiting tool and service to state and local agencies for manpower and the privilege of using their arrest statistics.

Then there's what's called agency shopping. Even the park police have federal drug enforcement powers and the state and locals shop among the agencies to see how much money and how much of the agencies resources they can control.

But the real monster at the federal level is the task force where you blend fifteen agencies with different jurisdictions who were separated for good reasons to begin with. They combine the resources and they target targets with the same goals and objective.

Then you read the press release and there are more law enforcement agencies listed than defendants. All of the defendants are located and arrested in the state even though the drugs came from outside the state but they say they have "dismantled" a large scale drug trafficking oranization "top to bottom" and the organization in that "state" was "linked" to a much larger group outside the country. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

DEA has offices in all those countries and alot of personnel. I worked in one and we did nothing but follow up on subscriber information for phone numbers from domestic offices that really didn't want us to follow up on the trafficker.

This whole drug war is like an upside down pyramid and one day DEA will get a little Tulia like scrutiny and an enima shortly thereafter.

Anonymous said...


EXCELLENT, thanks for being so straight forward and honest! The public has no idea of the abuse of power and wrongful actions occurring on a regular basis today, ALL ACROSS OUR NATION!

The years of propaganda and manipulation are now accepted as common practice??? Any means justifies any wrongful actions and used routinely to avoid accountability! With every wrongful death or abuse of power another family turns against our Brothers and Sisters in uniform! Sadly in many cities across our country officers are no longer seen as public servants who's duty and sworn oath is to " PROTECT AND SERVE"! And through the manipulation of TV and Media there is a concerted effort to justify officers administering punishment and abuse to American citizens! All under the guise of safety???? When you see an American crawl out of his car spread eagle on the ground " BEFORE " any officers can get to him. Then watch as 5 officers pounce on him and openly abuse him and their police powers, why would ANYBODY stop and accept this abuse??? When innocent Americans are wrongfully killed and abused during wrongful drug raids, and NOBODY IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE! More people turn against our Brothers and Sisters in uniform. More than I can ever remember there is now a mentality " ON BOTH SDIES " of us against them!!!! And sadly due to the lack of leadership and accountability as well as accepted practices of abuse of powers, far too many times American citizens are justified in this belief!!! Where did the policy of “ LEAST AMOUNT “ of force necessary go? When did it become “ LEGAL “ and accepted for “ ANY “ officer to administer punishment FOR ANY REASON??? When you have the spokesman for DPS, Officer White openly admit to violating the law, why should anybody follow the laws??? Officer White on TV was asked the question by a news anchor “ HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH TO DRINK ,AND THEN DRIVE” his exact response was “ IF YOU DRINK “ ANYTHING “ AND DRIVE YOUR GOING TO JAIL”???? That is “ NOT “ what the laws of this great state demands! The very laws this officer AND ALL officers are sworn to uphold! The law CLEARLY states it is LEGAL to drink and then drive, it is ILLEGAL to drink beyond the legal limit and then drive!!! Due to the open admission of abuse of powers, every Texas citizen can no longer “ RISK “ cooperating during a traffic stop. Next time you’re driving down the freeway and you look up at the Texdot sign and it says “ DRINK AND DRIVE GO TO JAIL” remember you have just been lied to, in a blatant attempt to violate the laws of this great state! Can you say prohibition of alcohol , NOT AGAIN???? Our Brothers and Sisters in uniform have a hard enough job as it is, “ BUT “ if the good guy’s don’t have to follow the law, WHY SHOULD ANYBODY????
There has got to be a better way!

Rusty White

Anonymous said...

Rusty White;

I beg to differ with you about what the public knows and believes. I feel pretty confident that the public doesn't care because drug addicts, drug traffickers, and violent offenders on drugs are not sympathetic defendants. In my experience, the average citizen doesn't care how you get it done so long as it gets done; of course not realizing how corrupt drug enforcement then corrupts the rest of the law enforcement functions.
In Boston, MA for example there's the FBI/John Conley/Whitey Bulger scandal; a Mass State Police Segeant stealing the evidence; the BIG DIG; and now three Boston PD officers arrested for protecting drug deals and countless incidents of corrupt activity. That's just one state and in just about all of those examples supervisors knew about it and let it go.
Apply that "let it go" theory to the other 49 states and that means those types of problems exist, supervisors know, and it's being condoned or ignored.
Law enforcement officers who do speak out are called crazy and forced into retirement.
Law Enforcement in general is broke. The public doesn't trust cops in general and if you talk to most young adults they're afraid. That my friend is the problem and in order to get the confidence back the state, local, and federal governments have got to do more to ensure the POLICE AREN'T POLICING THEMSELVES.

Anonymous said...


Excellent response, and all so sad and true!

""" That my friend is the problem and in order to get the confidence back the state, local, and federal governments have got to do more to ensure the POLICE AREN'T POLICING THEMSELVES. """

How could anybody argue with this truth??? Here in Fort Worth there is NO CITIZENS REVIEW BOARD??? A city this size and they still police themselves, go figure? That's like asking politicians to enact term limits! The only way term limits will EVER happen, is when " WE PULL THE CURTAIN TO VOTE "! It is time to remove as many career politicians from office as possible, AT ALL LEVELS!IMPO.

Rusty White