The last of four officers criminally charged in the Dallas Police Department's infamous fake-drug scandal pleaded guilty Monday in exchange for probation.
Afterward, former Dallas Officer Eddie Herrera offered an apology to those he victimized, but said he understands if no one wants to hear his regrets.
"But, whoever is open to it: I'm sorry for all the things I did and didn't do to cause this," said Herrera, who will serve one year of deferred adjudication probation and can never again work as a police officer.
He said that he wanted to apologize sooner but that he didn't want people to think he was saying he was sorry in exchange for leniency.
Attempts to reach several of the people who wrongly spent time in jail because of the officers' actions were not successful Monday.
The scandal came to light in 2001 after more than two dozen people, mostly Hispanic immigrants, were falsely arrested when paid Dallas police informants planted fake drugs on them. The city paid millions in settlements and made personnel changes at the Police Department.
Herrera, who testified against two other officers in connection with the case, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor attempted tampering with physical evidence.
Judge: 'Good luck'
Herrera's guilty plea was sandwiched in between criminals pleading guilty to other crimes. Despite the publicity that surrounded the scandal and trials of his fellow former officers, Herrera's guilty plea lasted mere minutes.
State District John Creuzot wished Herrera "good luck" and it was over.
Dallas County prosecutor David Alex said that without Herrera, officials may not have discovered what happened.
"If Eddie hadn't cooperated when he did, we probably wouldn't have gotten to the bottom of what was going on," Alex said.
But this isn't the end of the fake-drug scandal.
Mark Delapaz, the central figure in the case and one of the officers Herrera testified against, has pending appeals and at least a dozen cases pending in Dallas County. He is serving a five-year sentence and must serve another five-year sentence after he completes the first.
Whether Delapaz is tried on the remaining charges depends on what happens with the appeals, Alex said.
Another officer, Jeffrey Haywood, was sentenced to two years' probation in May 2007. Herrera also testified at his trial. David Larsen pleaded guilty and was given probation this month.
Perpetuating the lies
Herrera said he kept perpetuating the lies when he was first charged. But he said Monday that he decided to tell the truth because the case didn't seem to be going well.
"I was lying to protect Mark and protect my own butt," Herrera said. "I didn't know what would happen. But I did know I had to start telling the truth."
Herrera testified that Delapaz taught him how to steal money by inflating his accounting paperwork. He also told jurors that he lied to federal and internal affairs investigators trying to figure out how the fraudulent arrests occurred.
Now married, Herrera said he tried opening a small construction business but it failed. He now works as a courier.
"I got lucky with this," Herrera said of the plea deal and sentence. "But life is punishing me."