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The Nation

Limbaugh Deal Avoids Drug Prosecution, Defense Says

April 29, 2006|Sam Howe Verhovek | Times Staff Writer

Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was booked on drug charges in Florida on Friday, and his lawyer said that Limbaugh had agreed to a deal enabling him to avoid prosecution in the prescription abuse case if he continued treatment for addiction problems and avoided any other run-ins with the law.

Limbaugh, a conservative darling and liberal bete noire, was booked, photographed and fingerprinted in Palm Beach, Fla., then shortly thereafter released on a $3,000 bond, according to a posting on the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office website. A spokesman said there would be no further comment.

The apparent deal caps a three-year investigation into allegations originally aired by a housekeeper at Limbaugh's Palm Beach mansion, who told the National Enquirer that the radio host had abused OxyContin and other painkillers.

Prosecutors began looking into potential "doctor shopping" by Limbaugh, who received about 2,000 pain pills prescribed by four doctors over a six-month period -- all from a pharmacy near the Palm Beach house. The charge on the sheriff's website was listed as "fraud -- conceal info to obtain prescription."

Limbaugh admitted on the air to being addicted to painkillers, and told listeners he was entering a rehabilitation program. He took a five-week leave.

Although many of his fans voiced sympathy and support, detractors saw hypocrisy, noting that Limbaugh had been a staunch proponent of cracking down on drug users.

"Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country," Limbaugh said in October 1995 on a television show he had at the time. "And so, if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."

Limbaugh's lawyer, Roy Black, said in a statement Friday: "Mr. Limbaugh and I have maintained from the start that there was no doctor shopping, and we continue to hold this position."

Black said Limbaugh had pleaded not guilty and had willingly agreed to continue treatment for his painkiller addiction.

Black said that the deal with prosecutors called for the fraud charge to be dropped in 18 months if Limbaugh complied with all court guidelines, and that Limbaugh would pay $30,000 to defray the state's investigation costs and $30 a month for "supervision" of his treatment.

Prosecutors could not be reached for comment late Friday. But legal analysts said it appeared Limbaugh had eluded any criminal conviction in the much-publicized case.

"They slapped his hand, and that's all," said Debra Opri, a celebrity lawyer and frequent television analyst.

"So absolutely it's a victory for Limbaugh," Opri said.

"He doesn't have to stand trial. He just gets to say, 'Hey, I'll keep my nose clean. I don't have any priors, and I don't anticipate any futures.' And that's it. He walks."

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