CHASKA, Minn. (CN) – A Minnesota prosecutor said Thursday that he will not bring criminal charges in the overdose death of Prince, but a doctor accused of illegally prescribing the pop star an opioid has agreed to a $30,000 civil settlement.
Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said his office has no direct evidence that a specific person provided Prince with the fentanyl that killed him on April 21, 2016. He was 57 years old.
"I am mindful that this is the most unusual and extraordinary case involving a world famous celebrity, but I cannot factor Prince's celebrity status in the charging decision," Metz said.
The announcement came almost exactly two years after the pop star’s fatal overdose and just hours after news broke that Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg agreed to pay $30,000 to settle civil claims that violated the Controlled Substances Act by writing an oxycodone prescription for Prince’s bodyguard, knowing it was for the musician. The prescription was allegedly written a week before Prince’s death.
Schulenberg's settlement with the U.S. attorney's office, which was made public Thursday but is dated Monday, does not name Prince or refer to the criminal investigation, according to reports.
Metz’s announcement Thursday brings an end to his team's two-year investigation. He said Thursday that evidence shows Prince thought he was taking Vicodin, not fentanyl.
A toxicology report obtained by the Associated Press last month showed an “exceedingly high” concentration of fentanyl in his body. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin. The report stated that the concentration of fentanyl in Prince's blood was 67.8 micrograms per liter.
Search warrants obtained last year revealed that prescription drugs were found throughout Prince’s Paisley Park home and that some of them were prescribed to his bodyguard and confidant, Kirk Johnson, who claimed he did not know that the pop star was addicted to painkillers.
"A significant number of pills found by law enforcement at Paisley Park were not in their original containers provided by a pharmacy," Metz said Thursday, adding that evidence showed Prince had no Vicodin or fentanyl prescriptions.
The prosecutor said the pop star, whose full name is Prince Rogers Nelson, took counterfeit Vicodin pills containing fentanyl on the day he died.
"Nothing in the evidence suggests that Prince knowingly ingested fentanyl. In addition, there is no evidence that any person associated with Prince knew Prince possessed any counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. In all likelihood, Prince had no idea that he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him. Others around him likely did not know that the pills were counterfeited with fentanyl," he said.
Metz said there is also no evidence that the pills that actually killed Prince were prescribed by a doctor, and nothing to suggest a sinister motive to murder him.
"Evidence suggests that Prince had long suffered significant pain, became addicted to pain medications but took efforts to protect his privacy," he said.
Metz told reporters that Prince did not even own a cell phone, which could have provided evidence crucial to the investigation.
According to the prosecutor, Schulenberg made a one-time prescription of 15 Percocet pills in Johnson's name because Prince wanted to protect his privacy and did not want any narcotics issued in his name.
Police located 10 of the 15 Percocet pills inside Paisley Park during last year's search.
"Despite their extensive efforts, law enforcement was unable to determine the source of the counterfeit Vicodin laced with fentanyl," Metz said. "Therefore, without probable cause, and no identified suspects, the Carver County Attorney's Office cannot file any criminal charges involving the death of Prince."
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