Award-Winning Actress Alfre Woodard, Civil Rights Groups, ACLU Members And Staff To Recognize Kelly's Outstanding Contributions To Civil Liberties
NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union will present the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award to Regina Kelly, an African-American single mother of four who, based on an unreliable informant's false information, was arrested in a military-style drug raid for felony cocaine distribution. Refusing to plead guilty, Kelly fought the charges, resulting in a significant change in Texas law whereby cases can no longer be prosecuted based solely on the claims of a single confidential informant. The award will be presented on Saturday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m. EDT at the New York Academy of Sciences.
Kelly's story is the subject of a recent Hollywood film, "American Violet," released earlier this year in theaters nationwide. Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard, who portrayed Kelly's mother in the movie, will join the ACLU in presenting the award.
Excessive paramilitary drug "sweeps" by an out-of-control narcotics task force led to the arrest of almost 15 percent of the young African-American men in the small town of Hearne, Texas in 2000. The busts were based solely on the uncorroborated word of a single, drug-addicted, mentally ill confidential informant coerced by police. Kelly was swept up in the raids and, like other innocent people arrested, faced trumped-up drug charges designed to illicit guilty pleas. Many innocent individuals pled guilty to lesser charges rather than face decades behind bars and risk trial before mostly white Texas juries. Kelly, however, refused to plead guilty despite pressure from her court-appointed attorney at the time and others in the community.
The ACLU represented Kelly and others in a successful civil rights lawsuit, Kelly v. Paschall, against the Robertson County, Texas District Attorney and the local narcotics task force after evidence of police and prosecutor corruption and racist intent surfaced. Eventually, the charges against her were dropped.
Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award Presentation
Regina Kelly, Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty award recipient
Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard, who portrayed Kelly's mother in the movie, to present the award to Kelly
Remarks by Susan Herman, President of the ACLU; Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, who represented Kelly in Kelly v. Paschall; and Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. EDT
Program begins at 7:15 p.m.
New York Academy of Sciences
7 World Trade Center
250 Greenwich Street, 40th Floor
New York, NY
The event is closed to the general public
American Civil Liberties Union, 125 Broad Street 18th Floor, New York, NY 10004-2400 United States