After a two year investigation, Carver County Attorney Mark Metz announced no one is being charged criminally in the death of Prince.
But in a just-released settlement between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and family care doctor Michael Todd Schulenberg, he’s agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a federal civil violation of controlled substance laws.
Dozens of pills were located in the Paisley Park compound that was Prince’s home in misidentified pill bottles. Prince, Metz said, thought he was taking percocet, instead the music legend who died at 57 was unknowingly taking counterfeit fentanyl, and since it was the fentanyl that killed him, and the other opiates he was provided did not, there’s no one to charge.
Metz made his announcement in connection with the opioid overdose death of Prince two years ago almost to the day, April 22, 2016.
Meanwhile, the statute of limitations for a civil case expires on April 21. Metz and investigators – with the blessing of a judge – agreed, begrudgingly and with very strict conditions, to allow a law firm representing Prince’s “next of kin,” who may be seeking to file a civil lawsuit, to look at the confidential and non-public case files in late March to see if in fact there was a case and if yes, allow the firm the ability to have some, albeit limited, advance to prepare a filing in advance of the deadline. The press conference today, April 19 gives the firm two days to file.
In January, local media reported source said murder charges were unlikely and though charges were possible, they’d likely be minor.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Schulenberg Prescribed Opiates For Prince in Kirk Johnson’s Name
In addition to paying a finr of $30,000, Schulenberg will also be monitored under a two-year agreement with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as part of the settlement, it was announced Thursday.
Schulenberg treated Prince on April 7 and again on April 20, the day before Prince was found dead.
According to a search warrant in the investigation, Schulenberg once prescribed medication for Prince that Prince longtime friend and all-around manager Kirk Johnson picked up at Walgreens. pharmacy. The warrant reads Schulenberg wrote out a prescription for oxycodone on April 14 and put it in Johnson’s name for Prince. Local reports said Schulenberg’s lawyer dismissed that but an official lab report states there was a bottle in Johnson’s name that was labeled oxycodone.
But federal prosecutors and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration alleged Schulenberg, a family physician who saw Prince at least twice before he died, violated the Controlled Substances Act when he wrote a prescription in the name of someone else on April 14, 2016.
The report said Schulenberg ran unknown medical tests on Prince. The morning Prince was found dead, Schulenberg appeared at Paisley Park.
2. Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, Died in 2016 of an Accidental Fentanyl Overdose. He Was Found Dead in a Paisley Park Elevator
Likely dead for several hours, local reports said at the time, Prince’s body was found at 9:43 in the morning at his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, by his longtime friend, confidante, and drummer Kirk Johnson and Meron Bekure, his personal assistant. Also with them was the son of a California-based addiction treatment doctor who’d arrived to administer buprenorphine. Like methadone it’s an opioid replacement to help people in withdrawal, or trying to kick a heroin habit.
Around 12 hours before his body was found, his people were desperate to get medical help for Prince. A call was made to Dr. Howard Kornfeld, the pain and addiction specialist, but he was unable to leave immediately it was reported and so sent his son Andrew Kronfeld to Minneapolis. Kronfeld arrived that morning, went to Paisley Park and with Johnson and Bekure, found Prince dead. Kronfeld is not a physician and not licensed to provide prescription drugs.
Shortly after, another doctor showed up, local family care doctor Michael Todd Schulenberg who had treated Prince the day before he died. Local reports said Prince was dead for hours. His body was transported to the medical examiner.
The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Twitter account was literally created as result of Prince’s death. There has been only one tweet in two years from the account not related to Prince.
In any event, the public was kept informed during the autopsy and subsequent toxicology testing. That said, only some of the ME’s report was made public. Prince died from an accidental self-administered overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid dozens of times stronger than heroin.
Metz said in a court document that “the public is not entitled to the private data given to his next-of-kin.”
But the Associated Press got a hold of the confidential toxicology report that showed Prince had an “exceedingly high” amount of fentanyl in his blood when he died. Experts the AP spoke to said the amount of the drug in his body was strikingly high at 67.8 micro-grams. The AP said the report “explains that fatalities have been documented in people with blood levels ranging from three to 58 micro-grams per liter.” But it wasn’t just found in his blood, which may have been ingested by the body through a thermal patch, but it was also in his stomach which means he took it orally as well. And his liver contained around eight times the amount to cause “fatal toxicity…”
The AP also obtained a laboratory report that showed pill bottles at his home, Paisley Park, “tested positive for fentanyl and other drugs.”
It was also reported the fentanyl Prince overdosed on came from China.
3. The Flight from Atlanta That Altered the World Prince Was Ill
The Voice contestant and artist in her own right Judith Hill was in a relationship with Prince from 2014 until he died in 2016. She told The New York Times and People magazine reported that the 32-year-old communicated with Prince by phone and email using a gmail address with the name “‘Peter Bravestrong’ his oft-used pseudonym. She said she was on the plane with him flying back to Minneapolis from Atlanta following a show on April 14 when, she said, while having dinner, he fell unconscious. His private jet made an emergency stop in Illinois, paramedics met them on the tarmac and he was given Narcan to save his life. He was transported to the hospital but once he was feeling better, against medical advice, left.
Once back in Minneapolis, Prince was seen at a Walgreens, was treated at least once by a local doctor, may have had an intravenous treatment at a local hospital, and was not well, likely suffering from withdrawal symptoms or similar related to his use of opioid pain medication. It was reported he had grown “increasingly agitated” in the days after the overdose in flight. And so the phone call was made to the doctor in California.
But by the following morning, Prince was dead.
4. The Inner Circle Was Questioned as Part of the Investigation Into the Music Legend’s Death at 57
Johnson and Bekure among others were interviewed by authorities including the DEA. Johnson, 52, was a Prince multi-tasker. He was the tour logistics guy, the bodyguard, the Paisley Park estate manager, his close friend and confidante, and fellow musician.According to search warrants obtained to allow investigators access to Paisley Park and in specific, Prince’s computer and GMail accounts (he did not have a cell phone, rather used a landline and email only), Johnson and Schulenberg may have supplied Prince with narcotics: “Prince was a private person and trusted only a select few, Kirk Johnson being one of them. Your affiant knows from the investigation that Kirk Johnson managed a lot of Prince’s affairs including obtaining a narcotic prescription for Prince from Dr. Schulenberg. Kirk Johnson told your affiant during the interview when Prince needed something, Prince would either call or email,” the warrant signed by Detective Christina Wagner, states.
Bekure was Prince’s personal assistant. An Ethiopian-born model, Prince brought her in to run his daily life.
The Star Tribune reported the “two were the latest — and last — members of Prince’s ever-evolving, elusive inner circle,” and the paper said, found themselves “in the middle of a firestorm of questions about what led to the 57-year-old Prince’s apparent illnesses and sudden demise.”
Following Prince’s death, the paper reported, the two were too grief stricken in the days and weeks after the death to speak to media.
But Prince’s cousin Chazz Smith, who along with Andre Cymone, a lifelong Prince friend whose family took Prince in as a young teen to live with them rather than either of his, now-divorced parents, started the original band, Grand Central,’ who admits he was estranged from Prince as were most of his family and others who knew him from back in the day, started a #Justic4Cuz social media campaign to “find out” what happened to Prince.
On the Twitter page Smith created, which has just under 600 followers, he shares photos a Prince Rogers Nelson as a toddler and young child. He nickname was ‘Skipper.’ In the birthday image, Prince is the small boy in front of the cake.
5. Life After the Death of Prince
“When he died, nobody, on five continents said, ‘Prince who?’ Everybody knows who. How does one kid own the word ‘prince’ and the color, purple? But he did it,” said Van Jones, a longtime friend.
On the one-year anniversary of his death, Prince was celebrated globally. But nowhere more powerfully connected that his home of Minneapolis. The Star Tribune’s stunning coverage of the near-week long celebration of the popular music genius is a must-read (or reread) for any Prince fan.
“It unfolded over five days like one of Prince’s more elaborate outfits — some tightly tailored concerts here, some looser, elastic performances and eye-opening panel discussion panels there, with flowery emotional flourishes thrown in for good measure. The one seamless element throughout the first anniversary memorial weekend for Minneapolis’ greatest all-time icon was keeping his legacy alive.”
In Los Angeles two weeks after Prince died, the City of Los Angeles Memorial Tribute for Prince Rogers Nelson at Los Angeles City Hall on May 6 was attended by thousands.
At the 2018 Super Bowl at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the halftime show featured a towering projection of Prince.
Also Thursday, tribute festivities begin at Paisley Park and ‘PRINCE: Live on the Big Screen’ is set for Friday, April 20 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. And a memoir is on its way.
A year after his death, local media reported, Carver County Judge Kevin Eide ruled that Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and Omarr Baker, Alfred Jackson, Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson and John R. Nelson would divvy up the estate, valued at $100 million to $300 million before taxes.