I Inject, Your Honor

No one fought harder to rid the Panhandle of its methamphetamine epidemic than district attorney Rick Roach. In retrospect, an addict may not have been the best guy for the job.

HE WOULD STRIDE INTO THE COURTHOUSE in a perfectly pressed gray suit, every hair on his head brushed into place, and he would bound up the stairs to his fourth-floor office, usually skipping a step or two at a time. Sometimes, as soon as he’d throw open the office door, he’d start waving his arms at his assistants. “Let’s go! Let’s go!” he’d say in a booming voice. “Let’s get to work!” His name was Rick Roach, and in the Texas Panhandle, where he was the district attorney of a five-county region east of Amarillo, he was fondly regarded, in the words of one citizen, as “the enforcer”—a zealous, hard-as-nails prosecutor who had devoted himself to putting drug traffickers and longtime drug abusers behind bars.

Week after week, he would tell juries that the time had come to take a stand against the scourge that was ruining the lives of so many Panhandle residents. The jurors would stare into Roach’s eyes, and they almost always did just what he wanted, returning guilty verdicts with sentences ranging from 40 to 99 years. At the conclusion of each successful prosecution, Roach would make himself available for interviews with reporters (“The good citizens are fed up with drugs!” he declared after one victory), shake hands with the jurors and other well-wishers, and return to the district attorney’s office, where he would walk back to his own private office and shut the door behind him.

While sitting behind his grand desk, he would sometimes open a drawer. He would take out a syringe. He would roll up his shirtsleeve or pull down his pants. Then, the powerful, drug-busting district attorney of the Thirty-first District of Texas would inject himself with a large dose of methamphetamine, one of the most highly addictive and destructive of all drugs, and lean back in his leather chair, relishing a heart-pounding euphoria that would last for ten hours or more.

IF YOU READ A NEWSPAPER long enough, there comes a point when you begin to believe that no public scandal can catch you by surprise. But when the story broke in January that 55-year-old Rick Roach had been arrested in a courtroom by a team of FBI agents, charged not only with possession of cocaine and methamphetamine but also with the intention “to distribute or dispense” those very


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