ACLU backs Rush Limbaugh's privacy in prescription drug case; prosecutors are seeking records

Monday, January 12th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Rush Limbaugh and the American Civil Liberties Union don't agree about much, but they're in accord that the conservative radio commentator's medical records should be off-limits to prosecutors.

The Florida ACLU filed court papers Monday supporting Limbaugh's argument that investigators violated his constitutional right to privacy when they seized his medical records in November to investigate whether he violated drug laws when he purchased prescription painkillers.

``It may seem odd that the ACLU has come to the defense of Rush Limbaugh,'' the state chapter's executive director, Howard Simon, said in a statement. ``But we have always said that the ACLU's real client is the Bill of Rights and we will continue to safeguard the values of equality, fairness and privacy for everyone, regardless of race, economic status or political point of view.''

State Attorney Barry Krischer had no comment on the ACLU's involvement. Spokesman Mike Edmondson said prosecutors have followed state laws and have protected Limbaugh's rights throughout the investigation. Limbaugh has not been charged with a crime.

Prosecutors say they cannot continue their investigation until they review Limbaugh's medical records, which have been sealed since Dec. 23.

Limbaugh's attorneys have asked an appeals court to keep the records sealed past a Jan. 23 deadline set by the Palm Beach Circuit Court.

Investigators went after the records discovering that Limbaugh received more than 2,000 painkillers, prescribed by four doctors in six months, at a pharmacy near his Palm Beach mansion. Limbaugh's former maid told investigators she had been supplying him prescription painkillers for years.

Limbaugh argues that the investigation is politically motivated _ a charge that prosecutors deny. His attorney Roy Black says the records would only prove Limbaugh suffered from a serious medical condition and was prescribed painkillers.

Limbaugh admitted his addiction in October, saying it stemmed from severe back pain. He took a five-week leave from his afternoon radio show to enter a rehabilitation program.