The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Maria Archuleta, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666;

ACLU To Honor Regina Kelly, Plaintiff In Landmark Civil Rights Case, With Baldwin Medal Of Liberty Award October 24 At New York Academy Of Sciences

Award-Winning Actress Alfre Woodard, Civil Rights Groups, ACLU Members And Staff To Recognize Kelly's Outstanding Contributions To Civil Liberties


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

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

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. Press should RSVP to Maria Archuleta at

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666