CHARLESTON, W.VA., JULY 29 -- A federal grand jury investigating drug-trafficking indicted four people today on felony drug charges -- but what it didn't do got more attention.
Law enforcement officials in Washington had predicted privately Tuesday that Charleston Mayor Mike Roark, who was accused in court testimony last January of using cocaine, would be charged this week with a drug-related offense. But the grand jury, which is hearing evidence developed by the state's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, ignored Roark.
Roark, a 41-year-old Republican beginning his second term, has repeatedly denied using cocaine. Rumors that he is under investigation have circulated freely here in recent months, prompting his supporters to complain that he is being tried anonymously in the press.
"There's been talk like this for two years," said James B. McIntyre, Roark's attorney. "If I answer these questions every time I heard them, I wouldn't do anything but talk on the telephone. I don't think he will be indicted."
The grand jury's term, which already has been extended from 18 months to 21, expires in late August. Today's session was the last on the grand jury schedule, but U.S. Attorney Michael W. Carey, who is in charge of the drug probe, said more meetings are likely.
Carey issued a brief statement saying the special task force investigation is continuing. He declined to comment about Roark, and Roark could not be reached for comment.
Rumors of drug use have hounded Roark for more than four years, beginning with his first mayoral campaign in 1983. Roark's political beginnings make the gossip particularly ironic: He made a name for himself as a hard-nosed prosecutor leading drug sweeps that produced dozens of arrests.
But in the closing days of his first mayoral race, Roark was accused of stealing cocaine that had been seized by police. In 1982, a vial of cocaine vanished from an evidence locker to which Roark and three other people had access.
Roark's Democratic opponent, then-mayor Joe Smith, filed a report on the incident with the FBI, but no action was taken, and the report was never made public. Roark denied any connection to the missing cocaine and defeated Smith.
New cocaine allegations circulated in January, less than three months before Roark would stand for reelection, as confessed drug dealer George W. Hodges testified that he had supplied Roark with cocaine on four occasions and saw him use the drug at least once.
Roark denied Hodges' accusation, saying, "I have never used cocaine, I don't use cocaine, and I don't plan to use cocaine."