No criminal charges in Prince’s death, attorney says

Carver County Attorney Mark Metz will announce Thursday whether anyone will be charged in connection to Prince's death in April 2016.

CARVER COUNTY, Minn. — Carver County attorney Mark Metz said the recording artist Prince died from an accidental fentanyl overdose after he took counterfeit pills containing the powerful painkiller.

“Prince had no idea he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him,” Metz said.

There is no evidence showing how he obtained that counterfeit pill, he said. Because of that, there will be no criminal charges filed in the case, he said.

The Minnesota physician who saw Prince twice in the weeks before the artist’s death agreed to pay $30,000 to the US to settle allegations that he prescribed drugs to someone else knowing that Prince would take them.

The settlement comes nearly two years after Prince, the larger-than-life recording artist, was found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park, his home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The cause of death was an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl, according to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s office. He was 57.

Federal prosecutors and the Drug Enforcement Administration had opened an investigation into how Prince obtained the prescription medication, the agencies have said.

None of the medications found in Prince’s home was prescribed to him, according to court documents unsealed in April 2017. Some bottles of opioid painkillers in his home were prescribed to his former drummer and longtime friend Kirk Johnson, and other medications were found in vitamin bottles and envelopes, search warrants showed.

Dr. Michael Schulenberg did not admit liability as part of the agreement, which settled what law enforcement officials contended was a civil violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

“Doctors are trusted medical professionals and, in the midst of our opioid crisis, they must be part of the solution,” said US Attorney Greg Brooker. “As licensed professionals, doctors are held to a high level of accountability in their prescribing practices, especially when it comes to highly addictive painkillers.”

Amy S. Conners, Schulenberg’s attorney, said in a statement the settlement was made “in order to avoid the expense, delay, and unknown outcome of litigation.” The doctor made no admission of facts and denied any liability, she said.

Conners said that Schulenberg affirmed he did not prescribe opiates to any patient with the intention that they be given to Prince.

“After he learned of Prince’s addiction, he immediately worked to refer Prince to a treatment facility and to transfer care to a chemical dependency specialist,” Conners said. “Dr. Schulenberg has previously disclosed all information regarding his care and treatment of Prince to his employers, law enforcement, and regulatory authorities in the course of his complete cooperation with all related investigations.”

Prince, whose full name is Prince Rogers Nelson, had a complicated history with opioids, the addicting painkillers. The day before he died, his team had called an opioid addiction specialist in California seeking urgent help for him, an attorney working for the specialist and his son said in 2016.