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State zings prosecutors' tactics in Limbaugh case

The state Attorney General's Office questioned the motives of prosecutors who released letters from Rush Limbaugh's attorney and accused them on Wednesday of hiding facts in the case.

Prosecutors released the letters last week, citing support from the Attorney General's Office and the Florida Bar. But both groups contradict those claims.

The letters detail discussions between prosecutors and Limbaugh's attorney over whether the conservative radio commentator would plead guilty to doctor shopping for prescription painkillers.

State General Counsel Patricia R. Gleason told prosecutor Ken Selvig in a letter Wednesday that she is "disappointed" that he seemed to hide some facts, including that the case involved Limbaugh, when he consulted her about whether the records should be released.

"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.

The Florida Bar also raised concerns about whether the letters should be released, saying in a memo last week that they "are not normally to be revealed" and that prosecutors should first ask a court to decide.

When releasing the letters on Friday in response to a newspaper's request, prosecutors said they consulted with public records experts from the Attorney General's Office and the Florida Bar because they were concerned that release of the information would raise questions.

Selvig's response to Gleason Wednesday said they both agree that no legal exemption applies to keep the records private. He quoted the state's public records guide, which states that "an agency receiving a public records (request) cannot ask a court to intervene."

He said prosecutors had not intended to use the discussion with the Attorney General's Office as justification for releasing the letters to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Instead it was to confirm "the conclusion we had already tentatively reached, which is that there is no statutory exemption which would permit us to refuse to disclose the letters."

Those letters show that prosecutors rejected a deal Limbaugh attorney Roy Black suggested that would have let Limbaugh enter a drug intervention program rather than face charges of illegally obtaining prescription painkillers.

Instead, Palm Beach County prosecutors wanted Limbaugh to plead guilty to the third-degree felony of "doctor shopping" _ visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions. The prosecutors' offer included three years' probation, participation in a drug treatment program and random drug testing.

Though Limbaugh has been under investigation for months, he has not been arrested and no charges have been filed.