MIAMI (Reuters) – Rush Limbaugh was charged with prescription drug fraud in Florida on Friday as part of a deal ending a criminal probe of the conservative radio commentator that began more than two years ago, his lawyer and authorities said.
Under the deal the 55-year-old Limbaugh, best known as a brash and often moralistic talk show host, will see the case against him dropped in 18 months, his attorney said.
Limbaugh admitted an addiction to prescription painkillers in October 2003 after reports he was facing an investigation for allegedly using a housekeeper at his Palm Beach mansion to illegally obtain prescription drugs.
He was booked on Friday on a single count of concealing information to fraudulently obtain a prescription drug after turning up with his lawyer, Roy Black, at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
He was released after less than an hour on $3,000 bail, Black told Reuters.
He said Limbaugh filed a written plea of not guilty, and would persist in denying that he committed the crime of so-called doctor shopping.
The charge will be dropped in 18 months provided Limbaugh continues to seek drug therapy treatment from the doctor who has been treating him for the past 2-1/2 years, Black said.
“The prosecutors and I agree that there shouldn’t be a criminal prosecution, and we agree there shouldn’t be any court proceedings,” said Black.
As part of the deal, Limbaugh also agreed to make a $30,000 payment to the state of Florida to defray the public cost of the investigation.
“This guy has been undergoing investigation for two-and-a-half years. You can imagine what that does to somebody,” Black said in a telephone interview.
“He’s just happy that it’s finally ended and he can go back to his normal life,” he said.
The probe of Limbaugh came to light in October 2003 while he was embroiled in a controversy that forced him to quit his job as a television football commentator.
The controversy stemmed from comments some people saw as racist. Limbaugh said the media wanted Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb to succeed because he is black.