repostings 4 u
Prosecutors refuse rehab deal for Limbaugh, insist on guilty plea
By Peter Franceschina
Posted January 23 2004
Palm Beach County prosecutors rejected an overture last month from Rush Limbaugh's attorneys that would have allowed the conservative commentator to enter drug rehabilitation rather than face criminal charges for prescription drug abuse.
Prosecutors say they think they have evidence that Limbaugh committed at least 10 felonies by illegally obtaining overlapping drug prescriptions, according to documents released to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Thursday.
They offered to end the investigation if Limbaugh pleaded guilty to a single felony for "doctor shopping" and agreed to a three-year term of probation, a deal that Limbaugh's Miami attorney Roy Black called "preposterous" on Thursday.
Limbaugh, 53, admitted in October to a prescription drug addiction as the result of chronic back pain and entered a monthlong treatment program. He has not been charged with any crimes.
Black wrote to Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer on Dec. 11, asking whether his office's investigation could be resolved by having Limbaugh enter an intervention program that allows drug offenders to seek treatment and not face criminal convictions.
James Martz, the prosecutor heading the investigation into Limbaugh's prescription drug use, responded to Black with a Dec. 15 letter saying such an intervention program was not appropriate. The program is typically offered to minor, first-time drug offenders.
Martz noted that prosecutors reviewed records from a pharmacy near Limbaugh's $24 million Palm Beach mansion coupled with records associated with four search warrants served on Limbaugh's doctors for his medical records. Martz said those records "indicate evidence that would support in excess of 10 felony counts for violations" of doctor shopping, which makes it illegal to obtain prescriptions secretly from more than one doctor.
Martz offered to end the investigation through a plea agreement. "We believe this case can be settled without a trial," he wrote in the Dec. 15 letter.
Prosecutors said Limbaugh would have to admit to doctor shopping, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Limbaugh would be placed on three years of probation, required to undergo a treatment program approved by a judge and subjected to random drug tests during that time.
"Mr. Limbaugh would provide community service during his probationary period in a manner approved by the court," Martz wrote. "We would suggest that those efforts be utilized to raise public awareness of the dangers of prescription drug addiction."
And since Limbaugh does not have a criminal record, the prosecutors' offer would have allowed the judge to withhold a formal finding of guilt, meaning Limbaugh would not be a convicted felon if he successfully completed all terms of his probation.
It was unclear Thursday whether the prosecution offer is still on the table.
"This proposed resolution is offered as an alternative to unsealing your client's medical records and in an effort to bring this case to a swift and just resolution," Martz wrote.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the letters, which were released to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in response to a request under the state's public-records laws. Prosecutors consulted with the Florida Attorney General's Office and the Florida Bar before determining the letters are not confidential and had to be released as public records.
"My request of Mr. Krischer was for the same treatment anyone else in this situation would receive. The state's response was preposterous, and I declined to respond to it," Black said in a statement Thursday.
Black said in his statement that he expected prosecutors to keep his communications with them private, and he noted that his Dec. 11 letter was marked confidential. Black has been critical of the investigation, which he has said is politically motivated, and of leaks about the case to the media.
"What is even more troubling is this office's continued violations of Florida law and Bar ethics," Black said. "The disclosure of these highly confidential communications violate the Florida statutes, the rules of procedure and evidence, and the Florida Bar rules. Once again, because the state has no case against Mr. Limbaugh, they continually seek to discredit him in the media."
In a Dec. 18 letter to Krischer asking for an investigation into alleged leaks from his office, Black wrote that he had been contacted by the media the day before and asked whether Limbaugh was pleading guilty to a felony.
"The planting of a story that a suspect, in a highly publicized investigation, was about to plead guilty clearly interferes with the investigation and the adjudicative process. No leak could have more impact than this," Black wrote. "Any person would know that this type of story would have a major impact with potential jurors and others."
While the exchange between prosecutors and Black was going on, Black also was fighting to prevent prosecutors from gaining access to Limbaugh's medical records by arguing they were improperly seized with search warrants rather than being subpoenaed after giving Limbaugh a chance to contest the issue in court.
The fight over Limbaugh's medical records now is with the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach.
"It is certainly clear by now that Rush Limbaugh was addicted to prescription pain medication. The latest round of search warrants seizing Rush's medical records will show that he had serious medical problems, was prescribed pain medication and took large amounts of it. He subsequently became addicted to these highly addictive substances," Black wrote in his Dec. 11 letter.
"He has admitted as much on his radio show. Not only that, he checked himself into one of the nation's finest drug rehabilitation centers. He has followed his rehabilitation with almost daily sessions with his own psychologist following up on the treatment he received at the center."
Since Limbaugh admitted his problem and sought treatment, Black wrote that an intervention program would be appropriate because it would "require him to continue his addiction treatment."
Black wrote, "I believe this proposal would be in keeping with the public interest. The public is better served by treating addicts as patients rather than criminals."
Peter Franceschina can be reached at pfranceschina@ sun-sentinel.com or 561-832-2894.