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Ex-Texas sheriff facing prison time in sex scandal dies

FORT WORTH, Texas - Former Montague County Sheriff Bill Keating, who had faced up to a decade in federal prison for a sexual assault and was accused of letting inmates have the run of his small-town jail, died of an apparent heart attack. He was 62.

After working in his yard late Thursday afternoon and telling his wife he felt lightheaded, Keating was found slumped over and not breathing, his attorney Mark Daniel told The Associated Press on Friday. Keating, who lived near Forestburg, about 60 miles northwest of Fort Worth, apparently died of a heart attack, Daniel said.

His body was sent to the Dallas County medical examiner for an autopsy, but it appears Keating died of natural causes, said Montague County Chief Deputy J.T. Mitchell.

Residents of rural Montague County, near the Oklahoma line, were shocked in January when Keating pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation. Last fall while serving a warrant at a house, he told a woman she would go to jail on a drug charge unless she had sex with him.

Then in February, Keating was indicted on charges of official oppression and having sex with female inmates. The 106-count indictment involved 17 people, mostly former jailers charged with having sex with inmates or giving them drugs and cell phones.

For months or longer, the Montague County Jail had been 'Animal House' meets Mayberry. Inmates had the run of the place, having sex with their jailer girlfriends, bringing in recliners, taking drugs and chatting on cell phones supplied by friends or guards, according to authorities. They also disabled some of the surveillance cameras and made weapons out of nails.

Some of the escapades dated to 2006 but had intensified since the spring of 2008, after Keating lost in the primary and could not run for a second term in November, authorities said.