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NYC musician seeks treatment after arrest on heroin charge amid probe into Hoffman death

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A musician arrested on heroin-possession charges amid an investigation into Philip Seymour Hoffman's death hopes to resolve the case with treatment, according to a court filing Tuesday.

Saying that his heroin addiction was a major factor in his alleged crimes, Robert Vineberg asked for the case to go to a drug court designed to channel users to rehab instead of prison.

"Mr. Vineberg is desirous of confronting and successfully dealing with his substance abuse problem and becoming a sober, again-productive member of society," wrote his lawyer, Edward Kratt.

The Manhattan district attorney's office hasn't yet responded to the request, and a judge hasn't yet ruled.

Vineberg, 57, is a longtime jazz and pop studio musician who has played, under the name Robert Aaron, on albums by artists including David Bowie, Mick Jagger and the late Amy Winehouse. But his musical career has foundered in recent years.

As police followed a tip after Hoffman's Feb. 2 death in an apparent heroin overdose, they said they found about 300 one-dose packets of heroin and $1,300 in cash in Vineberg's apartment and music studio. He's facing felony charges of possessing heroin with the intention to sell it, but he's not charged with any role in Hoffman's death.

If Vineberg, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday, is approved for drug court and succeeds in treatment, the charges could eventually be lowered or dismissed. He's being held on $200,000 bond.

Vineberg has said he was a friend of Hoffman's but has denied providing the heroin that authorities said they found in the Academy Award-winning actor's apartment. Vineberg told the New York Post in a jail interview that his last contact with the actor was a December exchange of text messages about attempts both were making at sobriety.

New York state has long had drug-court programs, but a 2009 change in the state's drug laws gave judges more discretion to send nonviolent, addicted offenders to treatment, on the theory that it would work better than prison at stopping them from reoffending. About 2,600 people statewide were approved for drug court treatment in 2010, more than twice as many as in 2008, according to a state Division of Criminal Justice Services report.

Two of Vineberg's neighbours, both 22, were arrested in the same investigation and charged with possessing two bags of cocaine. They were also in court Tuesday; their lawyers plan to file papers fighting the misdemeanour charges. The attorneys have said the two had no connection to Hoffman.


Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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