Prince Death Investigation Closed With No Criminal Charges Filed
Carver County Attorney Mark Metz announced on Thursday that he would close his investigation into the death of Prince without filing any criminal charges.
“For the past two years, law enforcement… has conducted an extensive, painstaking and thorough investigation into Prince’s death,” he said during a press conference. “That investigation determined that Prince died from taking a counterfeit Vicodin pill that contained Fentanyl, a dangerously powerful opioid. However, investigators were unable to determine how the singer obtained the counterfeit pills, leading Metz to conclude, “we simply do not have sufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime related to Prince’s death.”
Prince died April 21st, 2016 at age 57. When sheriff’s deputies responded to an emergency call from Paisley Park, the singer’s home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota, they found Prince unresponsive in an elevator. Medical personnel were unable to revive the star.
The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office released its report on Prince’s cause of death two months later, concluding that the singer died of an accidental overdose on Fentanyl. A subsequently unsealed toxicology report revealed that the amount of Fentanyl in Prince’s blood stream at the time of his death was well above the lethal level.
Metz was investigating the source of the Fentanyl. After the singer’s death, authorities obtained multiple warrants to search Paisley Park, where they found additional stashes of controlled substances, some of which were concealed in vitamin containers. However, these searches did not turn up any prescriptions in Prince’s name.
Prince’s physician, Dr. Michael Schulenberg, and his bodyguard and assistant Kirk Johnson both admitted to helping the singer obtain other controlled substances – but not Fentanyl – in the weeks before his death. At Johnson’s request, Schulenberg prescribed Prince 15 Percocet pills. In his notes, he said they would help the singer battle back pain, and the doctor made the prescription out to Johnson to keep Prince’s identity secret.
During his press conference on Thursday, Metz noted that “Prince did not die from taking a prescribed Percocet” and said that his investigation did not reveal any links between Schulenberg and the lethal Fentanyl.
However, Schulenberg agreed to a civil settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s office on Thursday, the Star Tribune reports. The agreement stipulates that the doctor will pay a $30,000 fine as punishment for prescribing “Schedule 2 controlled substances in the name of an individual, knowing that the controlled substances were intended to be used by another individual, in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.” In addition, Schulenberg consented to be monitored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency for two years. Johnson’s name did not appear in the settlement.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Greg Brooker said, “doctors are trusted medical professionals and,
in the midst of our opioid crisis, they must be part of the solution. As
licensed professionals, doctors are held to a high level of accountability in
their prescribing practices, especially when it comes to highly addictive
painkillers. The U.S. attorney’s office and the DEA will not hesitate to take
action against healthcare providers who fail to comply with the Controlled
Substances Act. We are committed to using every available tool to stem the tide
of opioid abuse.”
Schulenberg reached the settlement “in compromise of disputed claims.” The doctor did not admit liability.
Schulenberg initially saw Prince because the singer “had been experiencing numbness and tingling in his hands and legs and had vomited the night before,” according to Metz. At that time, Schulenberg examined the singer and prescribed him a pair of uncontrolled substances, vitamin D and nausea medication.
Soon after, Johnson reached out to Schulenberg again; this time, he asked the doctor to provide Prince with pain medication. Prince subsequently passed out on a plane ride back from an Atlanta show, likely due to another counterfeit Vicodin pill, causing the plane to make an emergency landing. Emergency medical services revived the singer when he touched down.
Johnson then got in touch with Schulenberg yet again, “concerned about Prince’s opiate use.” The doctor saw Prince, who inquired “about opiate withdrawal symptoms.” Schulenberg “administered IV fluids,” prescribed a blood-pressure medication and an antihistamine, and spoke with the singer’s management “about arranging chemical dependency treatment.”
On April 21st, 2016, Schulenberg drove to Paisley Park to follow up on that conversation and present the results of blood tests he had performed on Prince. When he arrived, the singer was dead.