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PAMPA, Texas (AP) - Rick Roach got elected district attorney in West Texas on a vow to rid the streets of drug dealers and users, and he went after them mercilessly.
"Drugs, drug usage, drug trafficking has become a scourge in our society," Roach thundered during closing arguments at a drug trial that sent a 30-year-old man to prison for 60 years in 2001.
Few guessed, until recently at least, the hypocrisy behind it all: Roach himself did drugs.
Roach, 55, was arrested inside a courtroom Jan. 11 and charged with possessing methamphetamine and cocaine. In February, he took a plea bargain on one charge - possession of a gun by a drug addict. He could get up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced in mid-April.
Roach said he had suffered from depression from age 13, and that he used illegal drugs to medicate himself.
"I just sort of, you might say, went nuts: I made irrational and wrong decisions," he said. "There's no excuse. I've gotten what I deserve."
Now under house arrest at his mother's home until sentencing, he declined to comment. An electronic monitoring device prohibits him from venturing more than 200 feet from the house.
The tough-on-drugs D.A. won re-election in November in his five-county Texas Panhandle district and was just days into his second term when he was arrested.
John Mann, the district attorney who lost to Roach in 2000, said he noticed a difference in the man about 18 months before Roach stepped down in February. Roach had "kind of backed off" drug prosecutions, Mann said.
"I think it was probably his inability to be coherent," Mann said. "I saw him acting like a fool for a year and half."
Roach became prone to extreme mood swings and was sometimes incoherent and paranoid, according to court documents. He also had lost 30 pounds and his skin was sallow.
Shortly before his arrest, a worker in his office in Pampa found a syringe containing meth residue floating in a toilet. And according to court records, Roach shot up drugs in front of an employee in his office.
He also had trouble sitting still and had unexplained absences from work. In December, he appeared "wired" during a court hearing, fumbling through papers and repeating what defense lawyers said until a judge told him to be quiet, Mann said.
That same month, outside a different courtroom, Roach was jumpy and could not carry on a coherent conversation, prompting courthouse employees to speculate that he was "on something," said Leslie Breeding, the Roberts County attorney.