Doctor to Pro Wrestler Who Killed Himself, Family Pleads Guilty to Illegal Drug Distribution

The personal doctor to a pro wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally distributing prescription drugs to patients who later became addicted to them.

Dr. Phil Astin, 54, pleaded guilty to a 175-count federal indictment charging him with conspiracy and improperly dispensing drugs. His sentencing is scheduled for May 12.

In June, Astin had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Several of the counts carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison and fines of $1 million. Others carry a five-year maximum and $250,000 fine.

Astin did not comment Thursday after the hearing. His attorney, Natasha Perdew Silas, described him as a "country doctor" who prescribed drugs to many patients suffering from pain.

The indictment against Astin involves 17 patients, none of whom was identified.

Astin was a doctor for World Wrestling Entertainment's Chris Benoit, whose name did not come up during the 45-minute hearing in federal court in Newnan, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) southwest of Atlanta.

Benoit strangled his wife and son, then hanged himself in their home in June 2007. Authorities said Astin prescribed him anabolic steroids, but a medical examiner couldn't say whether steroids played a role in the deaths.