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Limbaugh lawyer: Radio host was being blackmailed by ex-housekeeper

From Susan Candiotti

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh

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CNN's Susan Candiotti reports on a lawyer's claim that Rush Limbaugh was blackmailed.
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Investigators seek to unseal Limbaugh's medical records.
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Rush Limbaugh
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WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- An attorney for Rush Limbaugh charged Monday that the conservative talk show host was being blackmailed by the Florida couple whose allegations triggered an ongoing investigation into his purchases of painkillers.

During a hearing over whether prosecutors should have access to Limbaugh's medical records, attorney Roy Black said Limbaugh paid "extreme amounts of money" to Wilma Cline, his former housekeeper, and her husband, first for pills and then for extortion. Black alleged that the Clines had threatened to go public with information about Limbaugh's drug use unless they received $4 million.

Black said Limbaugh wanted to contact the FBI, but was told by an unidentified friend that if he went to the authorities, they would target him, and his political enemies would use the information against him.

"That's exactly what happened," said Black, who also alleged that Cline's husband was a convicted drug trafficker.

The accusation by Limbaugh's attorney came on the day that a judge began hearing arguments over whether Limbaugh's medical records should be unsealed. Prosecutors are investigating whether Limbaugh obtained and used prescription painkillers illegally and want the records opened.

No charges have yet been filed against Limbaugh.

A spokeswoman for the radio network that carries Limbaugh's show said discussions have taken place between Black and prosecutors about a possible resolution of the investigation of Limbaugh.

Keven Bellows, a spokeswoman for Premier Radio Networks, said Black had been talking with the Palm Beach County state attorney's office about Limbaugh "accepting responsibility for his actions."

But one of Limbaugh's attorneys, Mark Shapiro, strongly denied that any plea negotiations are taking place, saying Limbaugh is "not prepared to plead guilty to anything."

Bellows said Limbaugh, who recently completed treatment for addiction to prescription painkillers, recognizes that he may have purchased drugs illegally under Florida law and "certainly had more pills than he could ever use." In a later interview, however, she denied making that last comment.

Bellows said Limbaugh never intended to sell the drugs. "He wants this thing to go away," she said. "He won't admit to anything he didn't do."

Limbaugh is broadcasting from South Florida this week and may say something about the case on the air Tuesday, according to Bellows.

Ruling on medical records expected Tuesday

According to court documents, the investigation centers on whether Limbaugh engaged in "doctor shopping" -- getting multiple prescriptions from several doctors that he could not have received from just one. Such an offense is a felony under Florida law.

In court documents, investigators say Limbaugh obtained about 2,000 pills during five months, sometimes getting multiple prescriptions less than a month apart.

Limbaugh has insisted he has done nothing illegal.

Earlier this month, prosecutors executed search warrants to seize Limbaugh's medical records from two doctors. Under Florida law, a judge must give his approval before prosecutors can review those records.

At a hearing Monday afternoon, Limbaugh's attorneys argued that authorities should not be given access to the records, saying prosecutors could have used "less intrusive means" to obtain information for their investigation, such as issuing subpoenas to doctors for records and information.

But prosecutors argued that the records are relevant and necessary to an ongoing investigation into how Limbaugh obtained painkillers. Assistant State Attorney James Martz said prosecutors feared records could be altered if authorities subpoenaed them, rather than seizing them

After hearing from both sides, Circuit Court Judge Jeff Winnkoff said he will hand down a ruling Tuesday.

Sources have told CNN that the investigation into Limbaugh's drug use began in February when Cline, who once worked as a housekeeper at his home in West Palm Beach, went to authorities.

The Clines later went public with their charges in the National Enquirer, alleging that Limbaugh's representative had paid them hush money. Sources said the couple was paid a six-figure sum for their story.

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