PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – A retired western Pennsylvania judge accused of stealing cocaine being held as evidence pleaded guilty to taking the cocaine from criminal trials.

Paul Pozonsky used to walk the halls of the Washington County Courthouse as a respected judge.

But he returned from his current home in Alaska as a defendant, pleading guilty to obstruction of the administration of justice, theft and misapplication of publicly entrusted properties: second degree misdemeanors.

Pozonsky declined comment. He could face a maximum two years in jail on each count, but the defense will argue for probation, and it is likely he will lose his pension.

Prosecutors said he had police bring cocaine evidence to his chambers, and then the evidence either disappeared or was replaced with baking soda.

“Every time I stand in front of media banks it always appears as though the genesis of most of the crime has to do with drugs and alcohol,” said defense attorney Bob DelGreco. “I think you can infer from that that it is the scourge of our society and it is, as far as I’m concerned, one of America’s biggest problems and we can’t seem to correct it.”

His attorney says Pozonsky has been clean and sober for four years.

The tampered evidence first caught the attention of the Washington County District Attorney’s Office. It was then referred to the Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s Office, and that agency prosecuted the case.

“It was very shocking to me when it occurred,” said Washington County D.A. Gene Vittone. “Obviously, as an elected public official, we all have trust that’s in place to us by the people that elected us, and while this is a sad day for the bench of Washington County, it’s also proof that nobody is above the law.”

A judge from Bedford County, specially assigned to this case, will sentence Pozonsky in July and will decide whether he serves jail time or probation.

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