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Judge orders Limbaugh's medical records released

Talk-show host says probe is political 'payback'

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh

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A Florida judge rules prosecutors can examine Rush Limbaugh's medical records in a probe into the radio talk-show host's prescription drug purchases. CNN's Susan Candiotti reports. (December 23)
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CNN's Susan Candiotti reports on a lawyer's claim that Rush Limbaugh was blackmailed.
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WEST PALM BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday he is appealing a Florida judge's order releasing his medical records to prosecutors and blasted the probe as political "payback."

Circuit Judge Jeffrey Winikoff barred prosecutors from providing information in Limbaugh's medical records to anyone else while they investigate whether the conservative commentator illegally obtained prescription drugs.

On his radio show, Limbaugh blasted the ruling as a politically motivated invasion of privacy.

"The Democrats in this country still cannot defeat me in the arena of political ideas, and so now they are trying to do so in the court of public opinion and the legal system," he said. "I guess it's payback time, and since I'm not running for office, they can't get to me that way."

Prosecutors are investigating whether Limbaugh engaged in "doctor shopping" to get multiple prescriptions from several doctors that he could not have received from just one -- a felony under Florida law, punishable by up to five years in prison.

"The state has clearly demonstrated the relevance or nexus between seizing Mr. Limbaugh's medical records and this ongoing criminal investigation," ruled Winikoff, who was elected in a non-partisan race.

Limbaugh has insisted he has done nothing illegal, and no charges have yet been filed. The talk show host has admitted being addicted to prescription painkillers, and his lawyer, Roy Black, said Monday that the radio host was being blackmailed by his former housekeeper.

Limbaugh read a statement from Black Tuesday.

"Mr. Limbaugh was not doctor-shopping, and he should not have to sacrifice his privacy to prove his innocence," Black said in the statement. "The burden is on the prosecutor's office not only to prove otherwise, but to go through the appropriate legal process that protects an individual's right to privacy. We are confident we will prevail on appeal."

Palm Beach County State's Attorney Barry Krischer, a Democrat, said his office has "scrupulously protected Mr. Limbaugh's rights."

"Whether Mr. Limbaugh is subject to prosecution for any crimes is still under investigation," Krischer said in a written statement. "Mr. Limbaugh is presumed innocent at this time."

Prosecutors used search warrants to seize his medical records from two doctors, but Florida law required them to get a judge's approval before reviewing them. Limbaugh's attorneys argued that prosecutors could have used "less intrusive means" to obtain information for their investigation, such as issuing subpoenas.

Limbaugh admitted his addiction in October and completed a five-week drug-rehabilitation program after his former housekeeper, Wilma Cline, disclosed his habit to a supermarket tabloid.

Black said Monday that the talk-show host paid "extreme amounts of money" to Cline and her husband, both to obtain drugs and later, to keep them from going public about his addiction. Black said the Clines had threatened to disclose Limbaugh's drug use unless they received $4 million.

CNN Producer Allison Flexner contributed to this report.

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