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'West Wing's' Sorkin Guilty of Drug Charges

Los Angeles

Courts: TV show's creator agrees to enter rehab program after being arrested at Burbank Airport.

June 20, 2001|JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Aaron Sorkin, the Emmy Award-winning creator of the hit NBC television series "West Wing," pleaded guilty Tuesday to three drug possession charges and entered a two-year diversion program for first-time offenders.

If he completes the program, the charges will be dismissed, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Natalie Adomian. If not, he faces three years and eight months in prison.

Sorkin, 40, of Studio City, was arrested at the Burbank Airport in April after authorities found hallucinogenic mushrooms and small amounts of rock cocaine and marijuana in his luggage.

On May 2 he had pleaded not guilty to the drug charges.

Outside Los Angeles Superior Court in Burbank, Sorkin's attorney, Stephen D. Sitkoff, predicted that his client will complete the diversion program in 18 months and reclaim a clean record.

"Although he has entered a plea to drug offenses, he has not been convicted of any felony," Sitkoff said, reiterating that charges will be dismissed when Sorkin completes the program.

Sorkin did not speak to reporters but issued a written statement.

"Needless to say, it is a relief to have a resolution regarding my legal situation," Sorkin said. "I fully intend to proceed as directed by the court and am eager to get back to work and focus on what's important."

He also thanked his family, friends and colleagues "for the tremendous amount of support and encouragement they have provided during this period."

Although this is Sorkin's first brush with the law, he has acknowledged a freebase cocaine addiction that caused him to check into the Hazelden Institute in Minnesota for treatment in 1995.

In a 1999 interview with The Times, Sorkin said: "I'm the same as any other addict. I'm only a phone call away from getting loaded again."

Neither the court nor Sorkin's attorney offered details of the diversion program supervised by the county Probation Department.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said such programs typically involve counseling and drug testing.

Court Commissioner Kirkland R. Nyby ordered Sorkin back to court in December for a progress report.

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