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South Florida Sun-Sentinel, July 6, 2005
John Coté, Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer
A Palm Beach County judge appears close to releasing at least some of Rush Limbaugh's medical records to prosecutors, saying Tuesday he could be done reviewing them by the end of the week.
The documents are expected to revive a criminal investigation into the conservative talk show host's prescription drug use. In a two-paragraph ruling, Circuit Judge Thomas Barkdull also denied Limbaugh's request to restrict who on the prosecution team may view the records.
Suggesting a record handover was imminent, Barkdull at the end of Tuesday's hearing requested prosecutors provide him with three evidence bags for the documents.
"We assumed from the first hearing that some of the records would go to the state," Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, said outside the courtroom. "The only question is which records."
Prosecutors had sought access to all of Limbaugh's medical records as they investigated whether Limbaugh engaged in "doctor-shopping," illegally obtaining overlapping prescriptions from different doctors. Limbaugh, 54, of Palm Beach has not been charged with a crime.
Prosecutors cited prescriptions Limbaugh received in March 2003 and September 2003 to get search warrants for his medical records from four doctors in Florida and California. According to the warrants, Limbaugh picked up 1,733 hydrocodone pills, 90 OxyContin pills, 50 Xanax tablets and 40 pills of time-release morphine during that time.
Limbaugh, citing privacy rights, fought against granting prosecutors access to the sealed records. He lost appeals that reached the Florida Supreme Court.
Barkdull last month ruled that he would privately review the records to determine which "fall within the scope" of the search warrants. Those will be given to prosecutors. Any others will be turned over to Black. Prosecutors were ordered not to disclose the information to anyone outside the investigation.
Black then sought to restrict who on the prosecution team should have access to any records released to the State Attorney's Office, blaming prosecutors and law enforcement for media leaks.
"This case has become a soap opera," Black said. "They have taken a course of conduct to destroy him personally."
Black argued in court documents that only three people for the prosecution, the trial prosecutor and two police officers who executed the warrants, should have access.
Assistant State Attorney James Martz countered that it was incomprehensible for a suspect to dictate how prosecutors pursue a case.
Outside of court, Black said authorities have demonstrated a willingness to leak information about his client and would have access to some of Limbaugh's most private details.
"They have proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted," Black said. "Nobody wants their intimate medical problems broadcast to the state. I mean, it's the ultimate invasion of privacy."
A spokesman for the State Attorney's Office declined to comment.