PRINT PAGERush Limbaugh, Prosecutors Ink Deal to End Prescription Fraud Case

WEST PALM BEACH -- Rush Limbaugh cannot own a gun and must submit to random drug tests under an agreement filed Monday that will dismiss a prescription fraud charge against the conservative commentator after 18 months if he complies with the terms.

Limbaugh said on his radio show that "I have been undergoing random drug tests for two years and seven months. In the agreement, I have not admitted guilt, so that's the news." He added: "Do you think if there was any real evidence, we would have reached a settlement?"

Under the deal reached last week, Limbaugh must also continue treatment for his admitted addiction to painkillers. Limbaugh pleaded not guilty Friday to the charge that he sought a prescription from a physician in 2003 without revealing that he had received medications from another doctor within 30 days.

"This is a common sense resolution and the appropriate way the state should treat people who have admitted an addiction to prescription pain medication and voluntarily sought treatment," Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, said in a statement Monday to The Associated Press.

The deal also requires that Limbaugh be available to a court officer for any questioning throughout the 18-month period. The Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office may revoke or modify the deal if he violates the terms, according to the agreement.

Black said Limbaugh has seen a doctor and has been drug free for 2 1/2 years. "Folks, I haven't even craved a painkiller since I got out of rehab," Limbaugh told his listeners.

Prosecutors launched their investigation in 2003 after Limbaugh's housekeeper alleged he abused OxyContin and other painkillers. He entered a five-week rehabilitation program that year and publicly blamed his addiction on severe back pain.

The 55-year-old commentator surrendered Friday at the Palm Beach County jail on a warrant on the charge commonly known as doctor shopping, a felony that could carry a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. Limbaugh was booked, photographed and fingerprinted before being released on $3,000 bail.

The deal ends a three-year investigation that Limbaugh blasted as a "fishing" expedition. He repeatedly maintained he was innocent.

Prosecutors accused him of illegally deceiving multiple doctors to receive overlapping prescriptions. After seizing his medical records, authorities learned Limbaugh received up to 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months.

The single charge only represents Limbaugh allegedly illegally obtaining about 40 pills, said Mike Edmondson, a state attorney's spokesman.

"The information in the charging document in this particular instance was only evidence sufficient to support that sole count and that did not reflect the totality of the evidence we had in the overall investigation," Edmondson said.

He would not elaborate or explain why prosecutors scaled back the case.

Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney and prominent Miami defense lawyer, said the agreement is a standard deal for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders.

"The essence of a pretrial diversion is that you do not acknowledge guilt," Coffey said. "It doesn't either vindicate the defendant's innocence nor does it truly vindicate the prosecution's assertion of guilt. In that sense, it's a draw."


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