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$200K bond set for NYC man arrested on heroin charge amid Philip Seymour Hoffman probe

NEW YORK, N.Y. - A musician 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.

But a judge expressed skepticism about viewing veteran jazz and pop sideman Robert Vineberg as just a drug user caught up in a high-profile probe.

Vineberg was in court seeking bond in a case that has drawn a share of the publicity surrounding Hoffman's Feb. 2 death in an apparent heroin overdose, though he isn't charged with playing a role in it. He has said he was a friend of the Academy Award-winning actor but didn't sell the heroin that authorities found in Hoffman's apartment.

As police followed a tip after 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. Vineberg, 57, faces a felony charge of possessing heroin with an intent to sell it.

His lawyer, Edward Kratt, said Vineberg has a 10-bag-a-day heroin addiction, and much of the alleged stash "clearly was for his own use." 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 Kratt, adding that 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," McLaughlin said. He set a $200,000 bond or $40,000 cash bail for 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.

"He's one of the most well-rounded musicians I've known," said Duke Guillaume, a gospel/swing jazz saxophone player and one of about 20 friends who came to court Friday to show support for Vineberg. "He an extrovert when it comes to music — otherwise, he's a very relaxed guy."

Guillaume and others said they were unaware of Vineberg's drug problem before his arrest.

Vineberg told the New York Post in a jail interview Saturday that he and Hoffman had been friends for about a year and last communicated by text message in December, trading messages about their mutual efforts at sobriety. Vineberg wouldn't say whether he had ever sold Hoffman drugs but denied providing the at least 50 packets authorities found in the actor's apartment, the newspaper said.

"If I knew he was in town, I would've said, 'Hey, let's make an AA meeting,'" Vineberg said, according to the Post.

Hoffman said in interviews last year that he had sought treatment for a heroin problem after 23 years of sobriety.


Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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