Watch the Exchange from Monday Night…<a href=”http://mfile.akamai.com/5020/wmv/rushlimb.download.akamai.com/5020/Video/scarborough.asx”>Video></a>
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Rush Limbaugh blasts back at his accuser. His maid Wilma Cline had sold her story to the National Enquirer and claimed that Limbaugh was addicted to prescription drugs. Rush took to the airwaves to destroy Cline’s credibility earlier, and this is what he told his listeners.
RUSH ARCHIVE: Those two people first went with their so-called story to the National Enquirer, and the Enquirer said, Sorry, we can’t do that without a police investigation. We can’t — we’re not going to publish this unless there’s a police investigation. So these two people then called a lawyer with Democrat connections and went to the state attorney and got their immunity!
SCARBOROUGH: With us now is Jeanine Ferris Pirro. She’s a Westchester County district attorney and she’s the author of To Punish and To Protect. And also with us is Debra Opri, a defense attorney. Let me begin with you, Jeanine. This is a very serious charge by Rush Limbaugh that you — you actually have, in effect, the National Enquirer driving a prosecution. What’s your take?
PIRRO: That’s one of the problems with people who sell their stories either before or after they go to law enforcement. And if you’ll recall, in the Michael Jackson case, there was a statute passed saying you can’t sue and prosecute at the same time, and there’s a reason for that, because once people start selling a story, then their credibility becomes an issue. And if you have a couple here who has admitted to selling drugs illegally and then admitted to taking money for — to repeat the story, and then get immunity, you have to wonder about how solid a case can be built on this kind of testimony.
SCARBOROUGH: Are you also concerned about the fact that — forgetting all this National Enquirer involvement — we keep hearing of leaks coming from the state attorney’s office to the media, not only in south Florida, but also across the country. It makes this entire investigation smell, doesn’t it?
PIRRO: Well, what you — what we deal with is a world where everybody’s got a story and leaks come out of all different places and we never know who plants them or where they come from, and that’s why in a lot of these cases I think gag orders are important to make sure that the two parties who know the most about it aren’t out there spinning their own story. But, you know, even beyond all this, what you have is an investigation of an individual who is not selling drugs. And as prosecutors across this country, we generally look to divert those individuals who are drug addicted and rehabilitate them as opposed to prosecuting them. We prosecute primary the drug dealers who are making the money and are a blight on our society.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, the maid’s attorney Ed Shoat is denying Rush’s allegations, and this is what he said with them, quote, “That’s untrue. That’s a complete lie. The Clines reported their situation on their own, voluntarily, with no one looking at them to the police and the state attorney, and they received immunity for that.” Debra, let me bring you in here. What do you make of the denials and the back-and-forth that you have with Rush Limbaugh accusing these people of taking their story to the National Enquirer first, and also, of selling their story before going to the state prosecutor?
DEBRA OPRI: Well, let me start off. We’re talking about an investigation. We’re not talking about a legitimate investigation; we’re talking about a smear campaign against Rush Limbaugh. And I think it’s time, and I think he was a little delayed in doing it, I think he should be coming out of that corner and fighting like a tiger, because that’s what these people did to him.
SCARBOROUGH: Wait. Why do you say, Debra, that this is a smear campaign against Rush Limbaugh?
OPRI: He was a man who had a problem with painkiller medication, and the people who sold it to him, they have complete immunity. They sold their story; they made some money, and they’re the ones who are being protected here. These prosecutors? It’s prosecutorial misconduct. Rush Limbaugh is fighting to defend his life and his reputation. These are misuse of his prescription painkillers and medical records. They were put out in the public records, filed with the court; the media was invited to come in and make everything public. Who and what gives them the right to invade his privacy? And this is why the ACLU is now involved. We all have privacy rights, statutory and constitutional, with our medical records information. Why? Why is he any different? Why did they go after him? I’m surprised they didn’t go after Wilma.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Rush Limbaugh is obviously very upset about that, and he also thinks right now that the prosecutors could be getting desperate. Since they can’t see his medical records, now they’re taking a different tact.
OPRI: They should be desperate ?
RUSH ARCHIVE: We found out today that the state attorney’s office in Palm Beach has issued subpoenas to the doctors in question demanding a list of every employee at every doctor’s office I visited, from March to September of 2003.
SCARBOROUGH: Jeanine, that sounds like a fishing expedition to me.
PIRRO: Okay, you know what it sounds like to me, Joe? We’ve got some fundamental doctor-patient and privacy issues here regarding the seizure by a search warrant of an individual’s medical records, and there are real legal problems for that, and so you have two legal hurdles —
OPRI: I agree.
PIRRO: — right now. You’ve got witnesses who may be deemed incredible by a jury, and at the end of the day you have to convince that jury beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt. And then you’ve got these medical-record problems.
OPRI: I agree with Jeanine.
PIRRO: Now, what it sounds like we’re doing right now, it sounds like the prosecution is looking to get witnesses who can corroborate the fact that Rush Limbaugh went to the doctor’s office and Rush — what he may have said as opposed to being able to get those medical records in case they don’t get them. But, in any event, what we’ve got to tried to do as prosecutors is make sure that we’ve got those defendants who are our priority, and they are the drug dealers.
OPRI: I agree.
SCARBOROUGH: So you’re saying — you’re saying that there are some priorities out of place here in Palm Beach going after Rush Limbaugh instead of the people that were selling the drugs?
PIRRO: Well, look, every prosecutor across this country, when faced with a possible violation of the law has an obligation, a mission and a charge to make sure that he or she enforces the law. But having said that, there are certain priorities that we have. And given that addicted defendants end up coming back into our society, I think that we should try to rehabilitate them; we divert them from the criminal justice system. It’s what we do every day with defendants who use illegal drugs like cocaine and contraband. This certainly sounds like one of those kinds of cases.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, you know, Debra, Rush is trying to make this case bigger than himself, and he’s trying to make it a privacy issue. Listen to what he said earlier.
RUSH ARCHIVE: It’s a dangerous situation because we don’t know what excess they will try next, because they are intent on finding something. Somebody besides me needs to look into this and find out what the hell is happening.
SCARBOROUGH: Debra Opri, there are a lot of people out there who do not like Rush Limbaugh’s politics, but I have yet to hear anybody step forward and actually defend the conduct of the prosecutor who’s been taking this case — he hasn’t even filed any charges — by taking this tact against Rush Limbaugh. Why is that?
OPRI: You mentioned the fishing expedition. The prosecutors are in trouble. The prosecutors may, in the end, not be going after Rush. They may be going after the pushers, the doctors. And if they’re going into Rush Limbaugh’s medical records to try to find the abuse of the doctors in these prescriptions, then maybe they should have gone about it a different way. Maybe they should have sent out the subpoenas and gotten the records and had a hearing and said, This is what we’re looking for. But the way it came out, Joe, they were hunting Rush, and I think it backfired on them. I think it backfired, and I don’t think Rush Limbaugh is going to come out smelling here. The prosecutors are. I think Rush Limbaugh is going to come out as a hero of the people in saying, “We all have constitutional rights, and they start with our medical records, and they go on, and help me.” That’s why the ACLU is involved.
SCARBOROUGH: Jeanine Pirro, let me ask you one final question. Do you think in the end because of the alleged prosecutorial misconduct here, that Rush Limbaugh may actually walk and it may be the prosecutors that end up with egg on their face?
PIRRO: Well, right now no one has been charged with a crime, Joe.
OPRI: That’s correct.
PIRRO: And unfortunately there has been so much leaking as you pointed, out that everyone is assuming that that may happen. We don’t know what will ultimately happen, but I think that there are some very important issues here that will be addressed by the appellate courts in the state of Florida, and that is the seizure of medical records pursuant to a search warrant. As a prosecutor, I cannot get the medical records of any individual without that individual’s consent or, if that individual is dead, then maybe I can get them. But the first thing do you is you get a court order. You get the patient on notice that we’re seeking these records so that that can be litigated. That’s I think the primary issue here, and that’s what people will remember.
SCARBOROUGH: Alright, thanks so much for being with us Jeanine Pirro and Debra Opri. We certainly appreciate it. But I tell you what. It still is unbelievable. The prosecutor has accused Rush Limbaugh ? basically through leaks ? of drug dealing, of being in a drug ring, of money laundering, then we hear that he’s doctor shopping. Still haven’t filed a charge! But they have given immunity ? think about this. Even if you have Rush Limbaugh, think about this for a second ? they have given immunity to the drug dealer, they’re going after the person that was actually addicted to the pain medication. There is something seriously wrong going on in south Florida.