Friend of Philip Seymour Hoffman cleared of selling heroin to actor

Philip Seymour Hoffman

A friend of Philip Seymour Hoffman who was arrested in the wake of the Oscar-winning actor's fatal heroin overdose has avoided prison after agreeing a plea deal, reports the New York Times.

The Manhattan district attorney dropped all charges related to the sale of drugs against Robert Aaron Vineberg, a Canadian jazz musician known in the industry as Robert Aaron, on 28 August. Vineberg was initially suspected of heroin possession with intent to sell after his arrest on 4 February, two days after Hoffman's death, and might have faced deportation. But he was never charged with selling the actor drugs and is now likely to receive only a five-year probation sentence after pleading guilty to heroin possession.

The musician, who played sax on David Bowie's 1983 hit single Let's Dance, will continue legally supervised treatment for drug addiction, and has also forfeited $1,284 that police confiscated from his apartment on the night of his arrest in a raid involving more than 20 officers. Vineberg was widely named in US reports at the time as the man who had most likely sold heroin to Hoffman, and his arrest followed a tip-off that he had dealt to the actor in the past. Comments made by the musician to his arresting officers, in which he admitted regular drug dealing but said he rarely sold to Hoffman, were ruled by the district attorney to be inadmissible at trial because Vineberg had not been read his rights.

Hoffman, the 46-year-old star of Capote and The Master, was found dead on 2 February with a needle in his arm. Tests found heroin in samples from at least 50 packets in his Manhattan apartment, and the actor had earlier withdrawn $1,200 from an ATM. The New York City medical examiner found he died from imbibing a mixture of heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and benzodiazepines and ruled the fatality an accident.

Vineberg, who will be sentenced on 14 October, was visibly relieved after the hearing in New York. He told reporters: "It's all over. The worst part is that I still lost my friend."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 29th August 2014 14.25 Europe/London

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