Rush's Legal Woes

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, December 23, 2003.

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JOHN KASICH, GUEST-HOST: In the Personal Story segment tonight, a legal setback for controversial radio talk show Rush Limbaugh. A Florida judge ruled today that prosecutors can look at his medical records to decide if he should be charged with doctor shopping for prescription painkillers.

Limbaugh's lawyer has already appealed. And yesterday he said Rush was blackmailed by his former housekeeper. Limbaugh himself says the Democrats are behind his legal troubles. So could there really be a political agenda here?

Joining us from Miami is former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey.

Mr. Coffey, why do they need to look at these very private medical records? You know, relations between a patient and his doctor?

KENDALL COFFEY, ATTORNEY: Very sensitive, very confidential, and certainly protected by the law. But what the judge found is that the prosecutor has a legitimate interest in them because of the theory of the prosecution, which is doctor shopping.

That is to say, according to the prosecution, 2000 pills purchased within a six-month period from four different doctors, under Florida law, it's a class three felony to be going to different doctors within the 30-day period without disclosing to one doctor that you're getting essentially the same prescription drug.

That's the theory of the prosecution.

Too early to tell whether it's going anywhere. But understandable that a judge would not want to shut down the prosecution this early in the process.

KASICH: Mr. Coffey, you're -- you've had a lot of experience in these sorts of things. A prosecutor going after a guy who's got chronic pain, in and out of facilities -- what's the typical way in which they would treat somebody who is a user of prescription drugs...

COFFEY: Well, that's...

KASICH: ... or an abuser of prescription drugs?

COFFEY: Well, John, that's the big question here because there is a huge divide between users and traffickers, and we're not hearing any allegation that Rush Limbaugh is a trafficker.

So it's a fair question to see why is this degree of intense effort being dedicated to somebody who at worst is apparently an addict who developed an addiction as a result of severe back pain.

That's really the profile of a person that you don't try to put into jail, but you write that kind of prescription for that kind of person for community service, treatment, and that would seem to be the logical outlook here for Rush Limbaugh.

Not clear why the prosecution is going more aggressively in this direction.

KASICH: You -- you know, Mr. Coffey, I've never met you before. I know you have had a history of supporting some Democrats, but that doesn't matter to me. You seem like a very fair guy.

As I look at this case and I see this prosecutor doing it, I think it stinks. I think this is -- this is political. Your take on it?

COFFEY: Well, the judge found that it's good faith, and I would be surprised, John, if this were some conspiracy theory involving national Democrats, but look -- let's look at some of the other...

KASICH: I'm not saying that, but what about...

COFFEY: ... things...

KASICH: ... a prosecutor can make a name for himself, in Palm Beach County, a Democrat taking down the big dog, Rush Limbaugh?

COFFEY: Well, that's a concern in every case involving a major celebrity. Rush Limbaugh seems like -- if he were just another guy who had an addiction problem, this would have been wrapped up weeks ago along the lines of what I described, lots of community service, treatment, and then, at some point, the charges are dropped, no conviction, end of the matter.

What happens sometimes is these kind of high-profile cases take on a life of their own. The police that are involved want to push, push, push to develop the case fully. The local newspaper has editorialized basically in favor of pursuing the case further.

So while -- whatever may be the landscape in this case, it is pushing the prosecution further from a point where, early in October, John, they had sent clear signals from my reading the situation that they were not going to pursue Rush Limbaugh because their targets are pill peddlers, not pill poppers.

Something's changed here.

KASICH: Is it possible, Mr. Coffey, that he will not be charged because -- you know, we've got to make it clear Rush has not been charged yet for anything. Is it possible that the prosecutor could walk away from this?

COFFEY: Well, I think that it's entirely possible, but what I expect -- after the back and forth, it's clearly gotten more adversarial in recent days -- that, at some point, when the press heat is off and the public pressure is off, they're going to sit down and they're going to work out a deal that, at the end of the day, despite the extent -- extensive efforts, is going to be the same treatment that anyone else would have gotten, rich man or poor man, what amounts to pretrial intervention, and, again, as we've just talked about, community service, treatment, and the book is closed, and the chapter is over.

KASICH: Well, I don't want to, you know, rip the prosecutor ... I don't know enough about him. But I hope, at the end of the day, we get some justice, and they got some fair treatment.

Thanks for being with us.

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