Sun Sentinel - Palm Beach prosecutor slammed by state lawyer for releasing Limbaugh plea letters


The general counsel for the Florida Attorney General's Office criticized Palm Beach County prosecutors Wednesday, asserting that they mischaracterized the office's input into the prosecutors' decision to release documents last week in the Rush Limbaugh investigation.

The letter gave fresh ammunition to Limbaugh and his attorney Roy Black in their attacks against Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer for his handling of the prescription drug investigation. Also on Wednesday, a conservative public-interest law firm that supports Limbaugh filed ethics complaints with The Florida Bar against Krischer and his chief assistant.

Prosecutors say they released two letters between the State Attorney's Office and Black, among other records in the case, because they had to under Florida's broad public-records law. Chief Assistant State Attorney Ken Selvig wrote a one-page memo, initialed by Krischer, on the release of the documents outlining that he and Krischer checked with the Attorney General's Office and the Bar before determining the two letters were public.

Pat Gleason, the general counsel, said in a Wednesday letter to Selvig that his memo about their conversation concerning whether the records were public left out "critical parts of our discussion."

While Gleason said she and Selvig agreed there was nothing in Florida law preventing the release of letters discussing a possible plea negotiation, she said he omitted in his memo "that we also discussed the possibility that a court might refuse to authorize release based on constitutional concerns."

"It seems to me that the purpose in contacting me about this issue may not have been to obtain impartial advice on an open-government issue, but rather to use part of our conversation to justify your office's decision that the documents should be released," Gleason wrote. "This is disappointing to me personally and professionally."

Prosecutors last week released a Dec. 11 letter from Black to Krischer offering to have Limbaugh enter a drug-intervention program rather than face criminal charges. Prosecutors responded in a Dec. 15 letter they released, saying they thought they have evidence that Limbaugh committed at least 10 felony violations of the state's "doctor shopping" law, which makes it illegal to secretly obtain overlapping prescriptions.

Prosecutors offered to end their investigation if Limbaugh pleaded guilty to one felony and agreed to a three-year term of probation, which would include drug treatment, random drug testing and community service.

Black since has said Limbaugh -- who is not charged with any crimes -- would never plead guilty because he is innocent.

Selvig wrote back to Gleason on Wednesday, saying his memo was not meant to be a complete record of their conversation. He said prosecutors considered seeking a judge's review of whether the letters were public, but he cited the attorney general's Government-in-the Sunshine Manual that provides guidance on public-records issues. He cited a portion of the handbook that outlines that courts have ruled governmental agencies can't ask a judge to decide matters of public records.

"None of the contacts I have had with you over the past week was intended to justify our decision regarding the public-records request we received," Selvig wrote, adding that he wanted to make sure there was nothing prosecutors had overlooked that would prevent the release of the records.

In her letter, Gleason said she advised Selvig to ask the Bar about ethical considerations in releasing the letters and to notify Black about the request. JoAnn Carrin, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said Wednesday that Gleason declined to comment on the issue.

Carrin said Gleason's opinion that prosecutors should consider seeking judicial review was based on a Florida Supreme Court case. That case says the release of public records "must be balanced against the consti

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