Charges Against Hoffman’s Supposed Supplier Dropped
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Charges Against Hoffman’s Supposed Supplier Dropped


Suspicious But Not Certain

Just days after Philip Seymour Hoffman’s fatal overdose in February, his friend Robert Aaron was arrested for possession of heroin with intent to sell. Acting on a tip, police had stormed the jazz musician’s home and found $3,000 worth of heroin in 296 glassine bags. Though the bags’ imprints didn’t match the ones that had been found in Hoffman’s apartment, Aaron (whose full name is Robert Aaron Vineberg) was arrested and detained on Riker’s Island.

On Thursday, Manhattan district attorney dropped the drug-selling charges against Aaron due to “evidentiary issues that had come to light.” The D.A. cited a  letter showing that the officers who had arrested Aaron never read him his Miranda rights—which means nothing Aaron said during his initial interview with the cops can be held against him in court.

Making His Case

This came as a massive relief for Aaron, since those very statements he made upon arrest have been the strongest evidence against him. In interviews since his arrest, Aaron has maintained he sold heroin only occasionally to fund his own addiction and had never sold to Hoffman. But at the time, Aaron told the police he’d started selling dope when his music career became less profitable and only started using again later after a significant stretch of clean time. This distinction ended up hurting him in March, when he petitioned to have his case diverted from criminal court under a provision that allows addicts to avoid prosecution for crimes committed in the grip of addiction. Because of his original statement that his dealing preceded his addiction, his petition was denied.

Aaron had also told his arresting officers that he “rarely” sold to Hoffman because the actor didn’t like the quality of his heroin. Later, he tried to discount this statement, claiming it was made in the throes of withdrawal. Luckily for Aaron, the statement ended up being unusable for court purposes, and all selling charges were dropped.

But He’s Not Not Guilty

Aaron did plead guilty to possession of heroin. He agreed to serve five years probation and 25 days of community service as well as court-supervised drug treatment. These consequences are much lighter than the punishment he would have received for the heftier crime of selling narcotics. A Canadian citizen, Aaron could have faced deportation as well as prison time if found guilty of dealing.

Aaron had previously described his case as a media “witch hunt,” noting that he’d been using heroin on and off for 30 years without anyone batting an eye. When 20 cops showed up at his door the minute his famous friend OD’d, he felt he’d been made a scapegoat for Hoffman’s death.

Needing Someone To Blame

Whether or not Aaron had the faintest connection to Hoffman’s death, he’s right: when a beloved figure dies unexpectedly, the public demands answers. The police were never so interested in the drugs in Aaron’s apartment; they were in the ones that had killed his Oscar-winning associate. Yet even if Aaron had supplied the actor with his last high, would we have been satisfied with our scapegoat? My guess is that we’d all still feel Hoffman’s loss just as heavily even with his “killer” behind bars. After all, the real killer is still at large all around us, hiding in plain sight.

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About Author

Erica Larsen AKA Eren Harris blogs at Whitney Calls and Clean Bright Day. Their writing has also been published on Salon, Selfish, Violet Rising and YourTango. They live in Los Angeles with their husband and their enormous cat.