- The Washington Times - Friday, March 5, 2004

Prosecutors in Palm Beach County, Fla., who targeted talk show host Rush Limbaugh in a prescription fraud investigation involving the painkiller OxyContin did not seek similar charges against a local judge the Florida Supreme Court involuntarily retired last year after he admitted to an eight-year addiction to the painkiller, records show.

In fact, documents at the Palm Beach County Clerk of the Courts Office show the same prosecutors looking to bring felony “doctor shopping” charges against Mr. Limbaugh brought just a single case involving the same prescription fraud scheme during the past five years — and it never went to trial because the defendant died.

Mr. Limbaugh, who maintains a mansion in Palm Beach, has not been charged. He admitted being addicted to OxyContin and having obtained more than 2,000 pills from four doctors during a five-month period. He later completed a five-week drug treatment program.

Last year, Palm Beach County Judge Robert Schwartz was removed from the bench by the Florida Supreme Court after the court’s Judicial Qualifications Commission ruled he was unfit to serve. Judge Schwartz had taken himself off the bench in April 2002 after admitting taking painkillers daily for eight years, including OxyContin, to control chronic back pain.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission said Judge Schwartz, who had been on the bench since 1986, was “permanently disabled and incapable of performing his duties” and recommended he be “involuntarily retired.” Judge Schwartz, who did not oppose the ruling, had checked himself into a drug treatment center in April 2002 and returned to the bench four months later, but then left again because he was unable to hold court.

The judge’s addiction to OxyContin and his problems in the courtroom were widely reported by the Palm Beach Post in nearly a dozen articles.

According to court records, Judge Schwartz’s doctor was Dr. George Kubski, a West Palm Beach psychiatrist, who later was sentenced to a year in jail for manslaughter by culpable negligence in the death of a patient for whom he prescribed more than 20,000 pills in a year, including painkillers. Police said his 30-year-old patient died from toxicity.

Officials at the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office did not return calls yesterday for comment.

Meanwhile, the Florida Bar Association continues to investigate accusations that Palm Beach County prosecutors misrepresented advice they received from the Florida Attorney General’s Office as part of a plan to leak to the media confidential communications they had with Mr. Limbaugh’s attorney.

Assistant Attorney General Patricia R. Gleason questioned the motives of Palm Beach County Chief Assistant States Attorney Ken Selvig when he consulted her about what records could be released, but did not advise her he was talking about a drug investigation involving Mr. Limbaugh.

Mrs. Gleason said Mr. Selvig omitted “critical parts” of their telephone discussion in publicly releasing the Limbaugh documents. She said Mr. Selvig discussed the possibility a court might refuse to “authorize release based on constitutional concerns” and she recommended he consult with the Florida Bar, notify Mr. Limbaugh’s attorney, Roy Black, and consider asking a court to resolve the issue.

Mr. Selvig later denied that contacts he had with Mrs. Gleason were “intended to justify our decision regarding the public records request we received.”

The Florida Bar Association also has questioned prosecutors’ motives, saying it had been asked for advice in the release of documents and felt it also had been misused in order to make the Limbaugh information public.

Palm Beach County Prosecutor Barry Krischer cited the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Bar Association in releasing the Limbaugh documents, noting his office had consulted with public records specialists from both offices.

The released documents included letters between prosecutors and Mr. Black in which both sides discussed a plea agreement in exchange for dropping an investigation into Mr. Limbaugh’s use of prescription painkillers. Prosecutors had sought a guilty plea and were opposed to an offer by Mr. Black that his client enter a drug intervention program rather than face criminal charges.

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