Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Benoit's doctor pleads guilty to drug charges

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NEWNAN, Ga. -- The personal doctor to a Canadian professional wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their seven-year-old son in 2007 pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally distributing prescription drugs to patients, one of whom died.

Dr. Phil Astin, 54, pleaded guilty to a 175-count federal indictment charging him with illegally distributing prescription drugs and conspiring to distribute prescription drugs.

Astin also admitted that prescriptions he issued resulted in the overdose death of a female patient in 2007, though lawyers did not specifically name any patient or link the physician to World Wrestling Entertainment's Chris Benoit.

More than 50 of the counts carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a US$1-million fine. The others carry a lesser sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, said Patrick Crosby, spokesman for U.S. Attorney David Nahmias. Astin's sentencing is scheduled for May 12.

In June, Astin pleaded not guilty to the charges. Thursday's change was part of a plea bargain negotiated by defence lawyer Natasha Perdew Silas, who acknowledged her own investigation's findings in the case matched those of federal prosecutors.

She told U.S. District Court Judge Jack T. Camp that Astin wasn't guilty of prescribing medicine in exchange for personal gain, but rather was a "country doctor" who treated many patients suffering from chronic pain.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2009 C2

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