LUBBOCK, Texas — The lone undercover agent in a sting that sent dozens of black people to prison on false drug charges in a small Texas town was convicted Friday of one of two perjury counts, and may serve his sentence on probation.
Tom Coleman was acquitted of testifying falsely in a 2003 hearing that as a sheriff's deputy he never stole gas from county pumps. He was found guilty of saying he did not learn about the theft charge against him until August 1998.
Jurors deliberated for less than an hour before recommending probation. They sentenced him to seven years in prison, but because he had no prior felony convictions decided he could serve the time on probation.
The judge agreed and would rule Tuesday on the length and terms of the sentence.
John H. Read II, Coleman's lawyer, said probation was "punishment enough."
Prosecutors said Coleman deserved harsher punishment, going into detail in the trial about the bogus drug arrests in the Panhandle town of Tulia.