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-“”4″………..110001114.0M0..* Paschall denied racism was a factor in the arrests, and told the media the charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence and nothing else. He resigned in February 2001 as the project commander of the task force but was reelected as district attorney last November. Doug Becker, who is defending Paschall, said the prosecution has no evidence of racial motivation. “Their proof is completely statistical.” He explained one of his witnesses, a University of Texas professor, prepared a study positing drug use is not a matter of race, but poverty, unemployment, and lack of education. “Look, African Americans have higher crime rates that whites,” Becker said in an interview in his Austin office. “You can take a racist view because they’re African Americans, or you can look for reasons.” But interviews, depositions, and published reports paint a troubling portrait of Paschall and his motivations. Amy Paschall-White, one of his two daughters, testified her father joked with friends, including task force commander Ron Garney, about the annual drug arrests as a period when “it was time to round up the niggers” and “make niggers shit in their pants.” He also told Garney the only way to save Hearne was to bomb Columbus Village and get rid of all the blacks, she testified in her affidavit. Paschall got into fistfights with his daughter Debbie Paschall, Amy said, because of his objections to Debbie dating black men. And Paschall’s ex-wife Sandra Lee Paschall testified he often screamed at African-American school children outside, telling them to “go back to their side of town.” There have been allegations of corruption concerning Paschall as well. Sandra Lee Paschall said in her deposition that shortly after they were married in 1986, he was charged but never sentenced for stealing money from the “hot check fund” of the district attorney’s office. He admitted to her he stole the money, but got rid of the evidence, she said. Paschall lost his bid for reelection some time after that, and entered private practice. He was elected again in November 1992. A former employee in the district attorney’s office, Claudia Lynn Griffin, testified in an affidavit that she was concerned that Paschall was using a county credit card for diamond rings and personal trips three or four years ago. The Texas Rangers investigated, and Paschall was ordered to pay for some of the items, she said. Griffin now works in the district clerk’s office. In a deposition, Paschall denied stealing funds. He did not return several calls seeking comment on the other allegations or about his leadership of the task force. “As far as anything to do with integrity, there have been many allegations by the plaintiffs,” said defense. attorney Becker. “Nothing, zero, nada has been proved:’ Becker, who said he’s argued four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and often represents government entities. “Those who live with John Paschall know he’s not racist.” One person who is not critical of Paschall is city councilman Michael Washington, who is black. Washington said he once dealt with the district attorney concerning a family violence matter relating to his divorce. Paschall, who’s been in office off and on since the mid-1980s, was fair, listened to both sides, and ordered Washington to take an anger management class. For Regina Kelly, the trauma from the 2000 raid continues today. Kelly, who was arrested while working a double shift at her waitress job in College Station, initially thought it was for unpaid parking tickets. Her bail was $70,000, though later reduced to $10,000. Her case was dropped along with the rest of the defendants’ cases, but her record is still marred by the bust. A few weeks ago, Kelly says she was fired from her job at the Country Kitchen restaurant in Hearne, where she had worked since August 2004. The termination came about after Paschall talked with her manager. In her job application, Kelly had checked a box saying she had not been convicted of a felony. Calls for comment from the restaurant manager were not returned. he nation’s drug task forcesthe program is at work in 43 statesget money from the Byrne Grant program, created by Congress in 1988. Named in honor of Edward Byrne, a New York police officer murdered by drug gang members, it’s a partnership among federal, state, and local governments. As long as task forces hit their arrest quotas, the organizations continue to get funding. Texas has received anywhere from $25 million to $32 million from Byrne in the past couple of fiscal years, though that’s about to change. President George Bush’s budget for the next fiscal year proposes to slash the $600 million nationwide effort to $60 million, and then axe it all by 2007, according to the Associated Press. The White House said it would rather spend its resources on anti-terrorism, indicating a change in policy on the War on Drugs to a more national, centralized approach. Media reports have said some in the administration are worried Byrne has become an entitlement program for state and local governments. As the debate has unfolded, law enforcement agencies around the country have protested, pointing to a decrease in methamphetamine labs and cocaine trafficking rings, thanks to agencies cooperating with one another. That may be true, but the task forces have focused on low-level deal “How can someone go to jail for something that they know in their heart they did not do?,” asks Regina Kelly. 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 29, 2005