Thur. 12:45 p.m.: Minnesota prosecutor won’t file charges in Prince’s death
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The prosecutor in the Minnesota county where Prince died said today that no criminal charges will be filed in the musician’s death, effectively ending the state’s two-year investigation into how Prince got the fentanyl that killed him.
Carver County Attorney Mark Metz’s announcement on no criminal charges came just hours after documents revealed that a doctor who was accused of illegally prescribing an opioid for Prince had agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a federal civil violation. Prosecutors alleged Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg wrote a prescription for oxycodone in the name of Prince’s bodyguard, intending it to go Prince.
Metz said the evidence shows Prince thought he was taking Vicodin, not fentanyl. He said there’s no evidence any person associated with Prince knew he possessed any counterfeit pill containing fentanyl.
Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park studio compound on April 21, 2016. His death sparked a national outpouring of grief, and prompted a joint investigation by Carver County and federal authorities.
An autopsy found Prince died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin. State and federal authorities have been investigating the source of the fentanyl for nearly two years, and have still not determined where the drug came from or how Prince got it.
While Carver County said it was ending its role in the case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office had no immediate comment on the status of its investigation.
But a law enforcement official close to the investigation told The Associated Press that the federal investigation is now inactive unless new information comes forward. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the case remains open.
Federal prosecutors and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration alleged Schulenberg, a family physician who saw Prince at least twice before he died, violated the Controlled Substances Act when he wrote a prescription in the name of someone else on April 14, 2016.
The settlement, dated Monday, does not name Prince or make any references to the Prince investigation. However, search warrants previously released say Schulenberg told authorities he prescribed oxycodone to Prince on April 14 and put it under the name of Prince’s bodyguard and close friend, Kirk Johnson, “for Prince’s privacy.”
Schulenberg’s attorney, Amy Conners, has disputed that and did so again on Thursday, saying that Schulenberg settled the case to avoid the expense and uncertain outcome of litigation.
Oxycodone, the generic name for the active ingredient in OxyContin, was not listed as a cause of Prince’s death. But it is part of a family of painkillers driving the nation’s overdose and addiction epidemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 2 million Americans abused or were addicted to prescription opioids, including oxycodone, in 2014.
A laboratory report obtained by The Associated Press notes that one of the pills found in a prescription bottle in Paisley Park that bore Johnson’s name tested positive for oxycodone.