An attorney for Carver County, Minn., announced today that no charges will be brought in connection with Prince’s death and that the musician likely had no idea the vicodin pills he overdosed on were laced with the powerful opioid fentanyl.
“There is no evidence that any person associated with Prince knew that Prince possessed counterfeit pills that contained fentanyl,” attorney Mark Metz said during a news conference. “Prince likely had no idea he was taking fentanyl pills that could kill him.
“There is no evidence that the pill or pills that actually killed Prince were prescribed by a doctor.”
Metz said local, state and federal investigators were unable to determine who supplied Prince with the counterfeit vicodin pills and that for this reason, no charges could reasonably be filed.
“There is no doubt that the actions of individuals around Prince will be criticized and judged in the days and weeks to come,” he said. “But suspicions and innuendo are not sufficient in bringing criminal charges.”
Because the investigation has concluded, Metz said, case evidence such as crime scene photos will now be released.
Prince was found dead of an opiate overdose on April 21, 2016, in an elevator within Paisley Park, the home and recording studio he built in Chanhassen, Minn. The complex has since been converted into a museum.
Earlier today, Michael Schulenberg, who became Prince’s physician in the weeks prior to the star’s overdose, reached a $30,000 settlement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Schulenberg was alleged to have prescribed controlled substances to one person despite knowing they were intended for another. The settlement doesn’t include an admission of guilt, and in addition to the $30,000, he has agreed to increased monitoring of prescriptions he issues.
Documents from an investigation into Prince’s death, made public last year, revealed that controlled substances had been found hidden in vitamin bottles throughout the Paisley Park complex. They also showed Schulenberg and Kirk Johnson, who was Prince’s close friend and bodyguard, were the main subjects of the investigation.
Metz said Thursday that Schulenberg had written prescriptions for medications such as the opioid percocet. He said that all of the prescriptions were made out in Johnson’s name in order to protect Prince’s privacy. But the attorney stressed that it wasn’t percocet that killed Prince.
“I repeat, Prince did not die from taking the prescribed percocet,” Metz said. “The evidence that Schulenberg provided Prince the percocet in Johnson’s name is not germane” to the investigation.
This February, Carver County’s Metz had announced that the criminal investigation into Prince’s death was still active and that he opposed releasing autopsy reports to heirs of Prince’s estate because of that investigation. On March 22, however, a court in nearby Anoka County ruled in favor of releasing the report to the heirs’ legal team so that it could assess whether grounds for a civil case of wrongful death existed.
Despite strict guidelines around sharing the autopsy’s findings with any outside parties, a copy of it was obtained and reported out by The Associated Press within a week. Though it had been known for some time that Prince had died of an accidental overdose of the synthetic opiate fentanyl, the confidential report revealed that the concentration of the painkiller was “exceedingly high.”
In a strangely timed announcement ahead of Metz’s news conference, the Prince estate released and archival recording of “Nothing Compares 2 U” from 1984, along with footage of Prince rehearsing the track. The song, written by Prince, became a hit for Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor in 1990.
Since his death, the tight control Prince maintained over every aspect of his career has disintegrated. Because no will was found, there’s been a tumultuous process of determining his heirs and the proper administration of his legacy and works. As the AP reported Sunday, those heirs have yet to receive any money from Prince’s estate, though the functionaries attached to its management have earned millions. One previous collaborator released a song, “Deliverance,” he had recorded with Prince about 10 years ago, prompting court action against the engineer, George Ian Boxill, who had released it.
Twins Stadium, home of the Minnesota Twins, recently began selling Prince-branded merchandise such as baseball caps. “The biggest thing for us is just celebrating Prince and doing it in the right way,” the Twins’ marketing and promotions manager Mitch Retelny told NPR in an interview in February.
A memoir, announced the month before his death for which the artist had reportedly already written some 50 pages, is expected to publish sometime this year, according to a recent interview its editor gave to Variety.