Wrestler Chris Benoit's doctor faces more charges

Published: 6/9/2008 11:03 AM

ATLANTA -- The personal doctor to a pro wrestler who killed himself, his wife and their 7-year-old son last year was charged Thursday in a new 175-count federal indictment with conspiracy and improperly dispensing drugs.

The new indictment against Dr. Phil Astin replaces a seven-count indictment last July and involves 17 additional patients. Astin was a doctor for wrestler Chris Benoit. Authorities have said Astin prescribed a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids to Benoit every three to four weeks for a year leading up to the killings.

The indictment alleges that the prescription drugs dispensed by Astin resulted in death or serious bodily injury to one patient. That patient was not named.

Patients in the indictment are referred to in court papers by their initials. Prosecutors would not discuss the initials. However, two entries were initials similar to those of Benoit and his slain wife.

Astin, 52, of Carrollton, is accused of giving the patients hundreds of illegal prescriptions for drugs including methadone, Percocet, Oxycontin, Demerol and Xanax. None of the drugs mentioned were steroids.

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said the investigation is ongoing.

Astin's lawyer, Natasha Silas, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that she wasn't surprised by the new indictment, since prosecutors had said they planned to file it.

"Moreover, the addition of the new charges does not in any way alter our commitment to vigorously defend Dr. Astin when the allegations are tested in court," Silas said. "Until he was charged in this case, Dr. Astin was a compassionate country doctor, who provided low cost, and sometimes free, medical care to thousands of people in and around the Carrolton community."

The new indictment alleges that Astin illegally distributed prescription drugs by providing multiple, undated prescriptions, writing prescriptions for inappropriate combinations of drugs, or feeding the methadone addictions of patients for months or even years.

Astin was initially charged with illegal distribution of prescription drugs to two patients other than Benoit. Those charges came after the June 2007 killings at Benoit's suburban Atlanta home.

Authorities said Benoit, 40, strangled his wife with a cord, used a choke hold to strangle his son, placed Bibles next to the bodies and hanged himself on a piece of exercise equipment in their Fayetteville home.

Suspicions linking steroid use to the killings have lingered, since anabolic steroids were found in Benoit's home and tests showed Benoit had roughly 10 times the normal level of testosterone in his system.

Some experts believe using testosterone can contribute to paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as "roid rage." But authorities have never publicly linked the Benoit killings to steroid use, and Benoit's father believes years of head trauma his son suffered while in the ring contributed to the killings.