Originally created 01/24/04

Prosecutors reject Limbaugh 's proposed deal



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Prosecutors rejected a proposed deal offered by Rush Limbaugh's attorney that would have seen the radio commentator enter a court-sponsored drug intervention program rather than face charges, according to records.

Instead, Palm Beach County prosecutors wanted Limbaugh to plead guilty to the third-degree felony of "doctor shopping" - visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions of a controlled narcotic.

According to records of exchanges between prosecutors and Limbaugh's attorney, the prosecutors' offer included three years' probation, participation in a drug treatment program and random drug testing.

Limbaugh, who has admitted that he became addicted to prescription painkillers while being treated for a back injury, has not been arrested and no charges have been filed.

The records were first obtained by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel through a public records request and disclosed in a story the newspaper published Friday.

In an attempt to head off charges, Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, wrote prosecutors on Dec. 11 to suggest that his client enter a court-sponsored drug intervention program without a guilty plea.

"I believe this proposal would be in keeping with the public interest," Black wrote. "The public is better served by treating addicts as patients rather than criminals."

Prosecutor James Martz wrote back on Dec. 15 that an intervention program alone was not sufficient. He wrote that prosecutors had enough evidence to support more than 10 felony counts.

"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.

Black said in a statement Thursday to the Sun-Sentinel that his request "was for the same treatment anyone else in this situation would receive," and called the state's response "preposterous."

Black criticized the letters' release, saying he had expected prosecutors to keep his communications with them private. In the letter, he listed Florida statutes that showed why it should not be released.

Prosecutors said they consulted the Florida Attorney General's office and other experts before releasing the letter and were told that Florida's public records law takes precedence.

Prosecutors began their investigation of Limbaugh, 53, last year, after his former maid told them she was Limbaugh's longtime supplier of prescription painkillers.

Limbaugh spent five weeks in rehabilitation after announcing on his radio show in October his addiction to painkillers.

Limbaugh's lawyers denied their client was considering a plea bargain on Dec. 22 after news reports that he was seeking a deal with prosecutors.

It was unclear whether the prosecution offer was still on the table Friday.

Palm Beach County State Attorney spokesman Mike Edmondson declined comment. Black did not immediately return a call seeking comment.