Veteran jazz and pop sideman Robert Vineberg, who was charged with keeping a 300-packet heroin stash amid an investigation into Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, is an addict, and any heroin the musician allegedly had would have been largely for his own consumption, his lawyer said Friday.
However, a judge expressed skepticism about viewing Robert Vineberg as just a drug user caught up in a high-profile probe.
Robert Vineberg was in court seeking bond in a case that has drawn a share of the publicity surrounding Philip Seymour Hoffman’s February 2 death in an apparent heroin overdose, though he isn’t charged with playing a role in it.
The musician has said he was a friend of Philip Seymour Hoffman but didn’t sell the heroin that authorities found in Hoffman’s apartment.
As police followed a tip after Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, they said they found about 300 small bags of heroin, worth about $10 apiece on the street, and $1,300 in cash in Vineberg’s apartment and music studio.
Both are in the same building in Manhattan’s East Village.
Robert Vineberg, 57, faces a felony charge of possessing heroin with an intent to sell it.
His lawyer, Edward Kratt, said Robert Vineberg has a 10-bag-a-day heroin addiction, and much of the alleged stash “clearly was for his own use.” Edward Kratt noted that police didn’t report finding scales, rubber stamps used as a drug-world branding tool, or various other packaging materials to suggest major drug dealing.
“Mr. Vineberg is committed to confronting his problem and is committed to treatment,” said Edward Kratt, adding that Robert Vineberg’s addiction had sapped his ability to work.
But state Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin said that in some other cases, experts have testified that considerably smaller amounts of heroin were big enough to imply a plan to sell.
“If he has no job that produces income and has $1,300 in cash, you draw your own conclusions,” Edward McLaughlin said. He set a $200,000 bond or $40,000 cash bail for Robert Vineberg, who had been held without bail since his arrest last week. Friends were working to raise the money.
Under the name Robert Aaron, Vineberg has a musical resume that dates to the early 1980s. He played saxophone, flute and keyboards on albums by artists including David Bowie and Mick Jagger, and more recently, Wyclef Jean and the late Amy Winehouse.
Robert Vineberg told the New York Post in a jail interview Saturday that he and Philip Seymour Hoffman had been friends for about a year and last communicated by text message in December, trading messages about their mutual efforts at sobriety. Robert Vineberg wouldn’t say whether he had ever sold Philip Seymour Hoffman drugs but denied providing the at least 50 packets authorities found in the actor’s apartment, the newspaper said.
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