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Attorney: Rush Was Blackmailed

Rush Limbaugh's lawyer said the conservative radio commentator was "bled dry" by a former maid who demanded $4 million and threatened to reveal his addiction to prescription painkillers.

"Rush was extorted for large amounts of money from these people, who said they were going to report the fact of his addiction to the National Enquirer," attorney Roy Black said Tuesday on CBS News' The Early Show. "Unfortunately, some of his advisers told him he had to pay this, and if he hadn't, we wouldn't be in this situation today."

How much money?

"We're talking about several hundred thousand dollars," Black told co-anchor Harry Smith.

The maid and her husband eventually went public anyway.

The claim was made during a court hearing where Black asked that medical records related to Limbaugh be kept secret. The seizure of the records from doctors in Florida and California violated the conservative radio commentator's privacy, Black argued.

"What could be more important than keeping your medical records private?" he said on The Early Show. "I don't think anybody would want that posted in Web sites throughout the Internet."

Palm Beach County prosecutors insist they need to review the records, which are sealed, to determine how much Limbaugh's doctors knew about his frequent prescriptions for OxyContin, hydrocodone and other painkillers.

"We're talking about investigating crimes, specifically the crime of doctor-shopping," said Assistant State Attorney Jim Martz.

His medical records over six months list prescriptions for more than 2100 pills, mostly painkillers, reports CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann. The prescriptions were written by four doctors, and filled at a pharmacy near Limbaugh's $24 million mansion.

"Now the next question is did those doctors know about each other?" Martz said. Reviewing the records would be the only way to determine if Limbaugh violated the law by withholding information from his doctors — and went "doctor shopping" for drugs.

"What these records show is that i did suffer pain and had legitimate medical reasons for taking pain medication," said Limbaugh.

In a statement Monday, Limbaugh's lawyers denied their client was considering a plea bargain. The statement was released after Keven Bellows, a spokeswoman for Premier Radio Networks, told CNN that Black had been talking with prosecutors about Limbaugh "accepting responsibility for his actions."

Limbaugh's attorneys outlined a defense against accusations that he illegally used prescription painkillers and laundered money to finance his drug habit.

Black said Limbaugh suffered from a degenerative disc disease with "pain so great at one point doctors thought he had bone cancer," and that Limbaugh chose to take addictive painkillers rather than have surgery.

Surgery would have meant doctors would have gone through Limbaugh's throat to operate on his spine, which could threaten his career as a commentator, Black said.

Limbaugh's former maid, Wilma Cline, learned of his addiction and threatened to sell the story to The National Enquirer. She and her husband, David Cline, demanded millions and were "paid substantial amounts of money," the lawyer said.

The couple "bled him dry" and then went to authorities to gain immunity from prosecutors before selling their story for $250,000 to the Enquirer, Black said. The tabloid ran a story in October, days before Limbaugh announced he would enter a drug rehabilitation program, alleging they supplied him drugs for years.

Ed Shohat, the attorney for the Clines, denied Black's allegation.

"Rush Limbaugh confessed and admitted that he bought the pills. ... I know of no facts that my clients demanded money from Rush Limbaugh in any way," he said.

Limbaugh allegedly withdrew cash 30 to 40 times at amounts just under the $10,000 limit that requires a bank to report the transaction to the federal government.

The action drew suspicion because it can be a federal crime to structure financial transactions below the $10,000 limit.

"This would never happen except this guy's name is Rush Limbaugh," Black said about the financial probe. "There's a double standard."

Martz declined to comment after the hearing.

Judge Jeffrey A. Winikoff did not say when he would decide whether the records should be unsealed.

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