Warnock has history of blaming ex-policeman brother's drug conviction on racism, report

Records show that facts sometimes conflict with the senator's portrayal of his older half-brother's conviction.

Updated: June 13, 2022 - 2:20pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Georgia Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock has not always presented a contextually honest story when speaking about his half brother, a "first-time," "nonviolent" drug offender, who was sentenced to life in prison because of "racism," according to an investigation by the Washington Free Beacon.

The half-brother Keith Coleman was sentenced to life in prison following a conviction on charges related to facilitating a nationwide cocaine trafficking operation in 1996 and 1997.

He was at the time a Savannah Police Department officer who willingly became engaged in a cocaine-trafficking operation that turned out to be part of an FBI sting to catch dirty cops.

In speaking about his brother, Warnock, running for a reelection in November, often portrays Coleman as a victim of a system that treats black men unfairly, according the the Beacon.

The news outlet says Warnock, during a 2020 speech at the American Jewish Archives, said his sibling was "a first-time offender, convicted of a nonviolent drug-related offense, in which no one got hurt, no one died, no one even got high because the federal government basically created the sting operation."

Following the launch of the FBI's "Operation Broken Oath," which was designed to investigation whistleblower tips about corruption in the Savannah Police Department, Coleman became a part, and then the ringleader, of an illegal plot to shuttle cocaine through his state and throughout the country.

Using his department-issued weapon and vehicle, Coleman escorted FBI agents posing as drug dealers as they shuttled kilos of cocaine to airports, hotels and warehouses. 

According to prosecutors, Coleman recruited members of the force to join him and negotiated and distributed payoffs from the dealers for their services. He often pocketed portions of the illicit funds that were supposed to go to other members of the force. 

Ultimately, Coleman was convicted by a jury of conspiring and attempting to aid and abet the distribution of cocaine, and with carrying a firearms during a drug trafficking offense.

He was given a life sentence for his abuse of power as an officer of the law and for his recruitment of other officers to join the scheme. Two of his co-conspirators were handed sentences of 17 and 19 years, respectively. 

Coleman has unsuccessfully appealed his conviction a number of times since the mid-90s.

Warnock has also advocated for his brother, writing during Barack Obama during his presidency to ask for a pardon. In his appeal to the then-president, Warnock does mention that Coleman was a police officer, a detail he often chooses to leave out elsewhere, according to the Beacon.

Though no appeal on his behalf was ever successful, Coleman was released in June 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.