Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Problems With Chris Benoit Case Evidence

A lawyer for Chris Benoit's personal doctor asked a judge Monday to throw out evidence seized from his client's office days after the pro wrestler killed his family and himself. Dr. Phil Astin's attorney, Manny Arora, said in a filing in federal court in Atlanta that agents overstepped their authority in the June 27 raid on Astin's west Georgia office by taking records of six patients other than Benoit, as well as three years of bank records and two computers. The search, the first of three at Astin's office, came two days after Benoit, his wife and son were found dead in their suburban Atlanta home in what police said was a murder-suicide.

Anabolic steroids were found in Benoit's home, and tests showed Benoit had roughly 10 times the normal level of testosterone in his system when he died. Investigators have not given a motive for the killings, but the question of whether steroids played a role has lingered. Astin has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of improperly prescribing painkillers and other drugs to two patients other than Benoit. Federal prosecutors plan a superseding indictment with new charges, but haven't said when they will act. The doctor's lawyer said in an interview Monday that he expects his client to face more charges of improperly prescribing medication.

"They haven't indicated anything to me as far as what the additional charges would be, but I would imagine it would be more of the same. I can't predict what it is they plan to do, but I can't imagine there would be any evidentiary basis to try to blame Dr. Astin for the murder-suicide,” Arora said. He added that he doesn't expect the new charges to lay blame for the killings. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, Patrick Crosby, did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment.

In the motion to suppress, Arora asks a judge to throw out all evidence seized from the June 27 search of Astin's Carrollton office. If not granted, he wrote that a judge should at least suppress all items seized that do not relate to Benoit's care and treatment. Arora said in the motion that the "search was done without probable cause" and it "grossly exceeded the scope of evidence sought and authorized to be seized." According to the motion, Astin's office also was searched by authorities on June 29 and July 9, his mother's home was searched on June 29, and a storage unit belonging to Astin was searched on July 6. The motion to suppress does not attack the probable cause of those searches.

The district attorney overseeing the death investigation has said Benoit strangled his wife with a cord, used a choke hold to strangle his 7-year-old son, then placed Bibles next to the bodies and hanged himself on a piece of exercise equipment in his Fayetteville home the weekend of June 22. Court records say Astin prescribed a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids to Benoit every three to four weeks between May 2006 and May 2007.
Astin has told the AP he prescribed testosterone for Benoit, a longtime friend, in the past but has not said what, if any, medications he prescribed when Benoit visited his office June 22, the day authorities believe Benoit killed his wife.

Astin is free on bail, but must remain in his home except under limited circumstances. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Sept. 18. In the days before the killings, Benoit and his wife argued over whether he should stay home more to care for their mentally retarded 7-year-old son, according to an attorney for the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. The child suffered from a rare medical condition called Fragile X Syndrome, an inherited form of mental retardation often accompanied by autism. Benoit took four months off from work in 2006 because he was feeling depressed, WWE officials have said.

Source: http://biz.yahoo.com

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