independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Suspect 'had actor's phone number'

People hold candles during a candlelight vigil and remembrance for actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (AP)

At least one of four people arrested during an investigation of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman's suspected fatal heroin overdose had the actor's mobile phone number.

Investigators zeroed in on the four after a man, responding to publicity about Hoffman's death, told police he had seen the actor at the New York apartment building where they were arrested on Tuesday.

He said he believed that is where Hoffman got the heroin.

In searches of two flats in the building, police found hundreds of packets of heroin in one of them, according to a criminal complaint.

But prosecutors declined to pursue charges against one of the four, saying there was no evidence that he had control of the drugs or the flat in which they were found.

And two of the others were charged only with possessing cocaine, not heroin. Only one, jazz musician Robert Vineberg, was facing a charge of heroin possession with intent to sell.

Lawyers for the three people charged denied their clients had any role in Hoffman's death and suggested they were being swept up in a maelstrom of attention surrounding the actor's demise.

"This case and the charges against Mr. Vineberg have absolutely nothing to do with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. ... We're hoping the (district attorney) will not use Mr Vineberg as a scapegoat," said his lawyer, Edward Kratt.

He declined to say whether Vineberg knew Hoffman.

The arrests came two days into the high-profile case, reflecting the attention and urgency it has attracted. All three of the people charged were indicted within a day after their arrests, a fairly unusual step, and were being held without bail.

The two charged with cocaine possession, Juliana Luchkiw and Max Rosenblum, a couple who are neighbors of Vineberg's, were visibly dismayed when a judge denied them bail, though their lawyers hoped to revisit the issue today.

"She's not a drug dealer. She's a college student," said Luchkiw's lawyer, Stephen Turano.

Rosenblum's lawyer, Daniel Hochheiser, said his client "has nothing to do with Philip Seymour Hoffman".

Luchkiw and Rosenbaum had two bags of cocaine, while investigators found about 300 packets of heroin, a bag of cocaine and about 1,200 dollars (£736) in cash in Vineberg's flat, according to criminal complaints.

Investigators have determined that the Capote star made six ATM transactions for a total of 1,200 dollars inside a supermarket near his home the day before his death.

They are examining a computer and two iPads found at the scene for clues and recovered syringes, a charred spoon and various prescription medications, including a blood pressure drug and a muscle relaxant.

Police learned from phone records that one of the suspects had Hoffman's number, strengthening the theory that they may have supplied him with drugs.

Officers were waiting for a cause of death for the Oscar-winning actor from the medical examiner's office, which said yesterday that more tests were needed.

Hoffman, 46, was found dead on Sunday with a needle in his arm, and tests found heroin in samples from at least 50 packets in his apartment in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.

A private funeral for relatives and close friends of Hoffman is set for tomorrow, and a larger memorial service will be held later this month, his publicist Karen Samfilippo said.

Last night, Broadway theatre dimmed their lights in memory of the Tony Award-nominated actor, and members of the theatre community held a candlelight vigil for him.

"Courage was his forte, always," said playwright and actor Eric Bogosian.

"In this world of creative enterprise, it is ultimately up to the artists to decide how high a bar he or she will set for themselves. Phil set his bar on the highest rung, on a rung above the highest rung."

Hoffman earned a Tony Award nomination each time he appeared on Broadway. He made his debut there in Sam Shepard's True West in 2000 and followed it up three years later with Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night with Brian Dennehy and Vanessa Redgrave.

In 2012, he played a powerful Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller opposite Andrew Garfield and under the direction of Mike Nichols.

AP

Press Association

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