Drug Suspects In Court; Connection To Philip Seymour Hoffman Probed
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The four suspects arrested on drug allegations stemming from the investigation into Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death appeared in night court on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, the NYPD arrested four people and was questioning them in connection to drug sales to Hoffman. As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported Wednesday, police were acting on a tip that Hoffman had visited the location to buy drugs.
At least one person among the woman and three men were arrested at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in a building on Mott Street in NoHo and had the actor’s cell phone number, a source said.
Three suspects – Robert Vineberg, 57; Juliana Luchkiw, 22; and Max Rosenblum, 22 – were arraigned Wednesday night. Prosecutors did not file charges against the fourth person.
Police searched three apartments at the Mott Street building. They arrested two men in one apartment where they found 50 bags of heroin, and arrested a man and woman in another where an unspecified number of bags of heroin were found, sources said. In a third apartment in the building, police found 300 bags of heroin.
Police found Hoffman’s cell phone after reviewing the phone records of the suspects as part of its investigation into whether the suspects may have supplied Hoffman with drugs, the source said.
Police Wednesday night also analyzed heroin confiscated under a search warrant from the suspects’ apartments to determine whether there is a match or similarity to the heroin found at Hoffman apartment.
The manager at the Mott Street building told 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria he suspected nothing. “The tenants have lived here for a number of years. … No problems.”
None of the bags of heroin police recovered had the “Ace of Spades” branding that was seen with the heroin found with Hoffman’s body.
Attorneys for the three suspects claimed that their clients had nothing to do with the actor’s death, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
Vineberg faces the most serious charge of felony drug possession with the intent to sell. He pointed at cameras and held his hands up in front of his face.
“I’m hoping he will not become a scapegoat for Mr. Hoffman’s unfortunate death,” attorney Edward Kratt said.
Vineberg’s attorney said that his client never sold drugs.
“He’s a 57-year-old gentleman and accomplished musician with no prior criminal record,” Kratt said.
Luchkiw and Rosenblum both face misdemeanor drug possession charges. their attorneys have both denied any involvement in drug dealing on the part of their clients.
“She is not a drug dealer. She’s a college student. She’s absolutely stunned and shocked,” Luchkiw’s lawyer Steve Turano said.
Rosenblum’s attorney called his client a victim of circumstance.
“He walked into a buzz saw and happened to be in an apartment next to a place, apparently, where Mr. Hoffman was known to get drugs but he had nothing to do with it,” Daniel Hochheiser claimed.
The three were still being held in jail on Wednesday night. Attorneys for Luchkiw and Rosenblum said that they will be fighting for release on Thursday.
Meanwhile, an autopsy of the Oscar-winning actor was ruled inconclusive Wednesday, and more tests will be needed to determine what caused his death.
New York City Medical Examiner’s office spokeswoman Julie Bolcer said there was no timetable for Hoffman’s autopsy to be completed. She declined to discuss the pending tests, but toxicology and tissue tests are typically done in such cases.
While awaiting the official findings on the cause and manner of the “Capote” star’s death, police have been investigating it as a suspected drug overdose.
Lights were dimmed outside of Broadway theaters along 42nd Street on Wednesday night, in a display of honor and respect for the three time Tony Nominee.
Hoffman, 46, was found dead Sunday with a needle in his arm, and tests found heroin in samples from at least 50 packets in his Greenwich Village apartment, law enforcement officials have said. Authorities have been testing whether the drug was mixed or tainted with anything else. An official said authorities also found unused syringes, a charred spoon and various prescription medications, including a drug used to treat heroin addiction, a blood-pressure medication and a muscle relaxant.
CBS 2 has learned that the heroin found in Hoffman’s Bethune Street apartment was 55 percent pure, which is about average purity for the drug in New York.
Hoffman had been frank about struggling with substance abuse. He told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in 2006 that had he used “anything I could get my hands on” before getting clean at age 22. But in interviews last year, he said he’d relapsed, had developed a heroin problem and had gone to rehab for a time.
Hoffman’s relatives said they were devastated by a death both “tragic and sudden.”
Officials have been gathering pieces of the puzzle of what Hoffman was doing in the days and hours before his body was found, in his bathroom, around 11:30 a.m. the next day by his assistant and one of his friends. The friend had spoken to the actor by phone around 9 p.m. Saturday, a law enforcement official said.
His death came amid rising concern around the region about a powerful drug hybrid — mixtures of heroin and fentanyl, a synthetic form of morphine — that has been linked to deaths in other states, including 22 deaths within a week last month in western Pennsylvania. But the drug found at Hoffman’s apartment tested negative for fentanyl, a police official said.
Sources told 1010 WINS’ Juliet Papa that in addition to the heroin, investigators also found what’s believed to be cocaine and methamphetamines in Hoffman’s home.
The stage-trained Hoffman received four Academy Awards nominations, including a Best Actor win for 2005′s “Capote,” and three Tony nominations.
The marquees of Broadway theaters dimmed their lights for one minute at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, the Broadway League announced.
A vigil and prayer meeting was also held Wednesday night outside the 90-seat home of the LAByrinth Theatre Company, at 155 Bank St. in the West Village, where Hoffman had long been a member.
Playwright and actor Eric Bogosian is a longtime LAByrinth collaborator and said Hoffman pushed himself “until finally his efforts virtually redefined” acting. He said Hoffman wanted to “rock the world.”
Hollywood stars mourned the actor at a movie premiere Tuesday night.
“The acting community, the film making community, the theater community – it’s actually a really tight group – and he was an important part of all that and him not being here is really difficult to understand,” said George Clooney, who appeared in “The Ides of March” with Hoffman.
“He was a really special human being and he was one of the best actors that ever lived. Without a doubt. Um, and anybody who worked with him felt that,” said Matt Damon, who shared the silver screen with Hoffman in “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
Hoffman was born and raised in upstate Fairport, just outside of Rochester, and graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Hoffman’s wake will be held Thursday. His funeral is set for Friday. Both are invitation-only services.
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