Lawyer Accuses Housekeeper of Blackmailing Limbaugh
By JIM RUTENBERG
New York Times
December 23, 2003
The onetime housekeeper for Rush Limbaugh who told Florida law enforcement authorities that she and her husband illegally supplied him with prescription pain pills was blackmailing him in return for their silence, Mr. Limbaugh's lawyers said yesterday.
The housekeeper, Wilma Cline, and her husband, David Cline, had demanded $4 million in hush money, Roy Black, one of Mr. Limbaugh's lawyers, told Judge Jeffrey A. Winikoff of the state's 15th Circuit Court in Palm Beach County. Mr. Black added that the couple went to prosecutors, who granted them immunity, and The National Enquirer only after Mr. Limbaugh, the conservative talk-radio host, stopped making payments.
That accusation came in a court hearing in which Mr. Limbaugh's legal team sought to block the authorities from opening his medical files as part of a drug-related investigation of him. No charges have been brought against Mr. Limbaugh. The judge's ruling on the files is pending.
Asked about the blackmail accusation against the Clines, Ed Shohat, their lawyer, said: "I'm not aware of any fact that would support such a claim. It's not surprising under the circumstances."
During Mr. Black's presentation, the most detailed defense of Mr. Limbaugh since the investigation became public in October, the lawyer called the prosecution of his client a witch hunt built on leaks tailored to smear Mr. Limbaugh's reputation.
After news of Mr. Limbaugh's addiction broke in The National Enquirer in October, he admitted that he was hooked on painkillers, among them Oxycontin, a frequently abused narcotic. Mr. Limbaugh took five weeks off from his radio show for rehabilitation and returned to work last month.
In court yesterday, Mr. Black accused Michael Edmondson, a spokesman for the state attorney's office in Palm Beach County, of orchestrating leaks to several organizations.
He asked that Mr. Edmondson be barred from the case.
In an interview afterward, Mr. Black added, "Our research shows he worked in a number of Democratic campaigns."
The Sun-Sentinel, a newspaper in South Florida, reported in November that Mr. Edmondson was going to help the campaign of the West Palm Beach police chief, Ric Bradshaw, a Democrat, in his race for sheriff next year. But a June 2002 report in The Palm Beach Post said that Mr. Edmondson had been helping Nancy Graham, a Republican, as she considered a run for mayor.
A woman at Mr. Edmondson's office who identified herself as his assistant said that he was unavailable and on vacation and that the office would not respond to any of Mr. Black's accusations. Reached at his home last night, Mr. Edmondson's boss, State Attorney Barry Krischer, declined to comment.
Mr. Black said Mr. Limbaugh had paid a significant amount of money to the Clines over a number of years. He said they went to the state attorney's office in December 2002, after deciding they had "bled him dry." Mr. Black said that Mr. Limbaugh had at that point decided to stop paying them. But Mr. Shohat, the Clines' lawyer, called that description "not a true statement."
Mr. Black argued that Mr. Limbaugh's medical records, which prosecutors obtained about a month ago, should not be opened.
Prosecutors argued that the records would be crucial in establishing whether he had "doctor shopped," or gotten several doctors to prescribe pain medication. In Florida, that recently became a felony, punishable by up to five years in jail.
According to The Associated Press, James Martz, an assistant state attorney, said that Mr. Limbaugh had picked up 2,000 painkillers, which were prescribed by four doctors, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach home.
Mr. Black said in court that Mr. Limbaugh had not doctor shopped and that if anything, the records would show that the many prescriptions were legitimately related to ailments, like severe back and hearing-loss problems, treated by different doctors. Nonetheless, Mr. Black said, he opposed the opening of the medical records on privacy grounds.
Mr. Black said in an interview afterward: "There was no doctor shopping. The only shopping was celebrity shopping."