Musician claims 300 bags of heroin found after Philip Seymour Hoffman death were 'for personal use'

Robert Vineberg, a friend of the late actor, said he did not supply drugs

A musician charged with intent to deal heroin amid the investigation into Philip Seymour Hoffman's death has said he kept 300 bags of heroin for "personal use".

Veteran jazz and pop performer Robert Vineberg was arrested when police following a tip-off after the actor's death found about 300 small bags of heroin, worth about $10 (£6) apiece on the street, and $1,300 (£777) in cash in Vineberg's apartment and music studio.

Vineberg, 57, faces a charge of possessing heroin with an intent to sell it but is not accused of playing a role in Mr Hoffman's apparent overdose on 2 February.

He said he was a friend of the Academy Award-winning actor but didn't sell the heroin that authorities found in his apartment.

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".

He noted that police didn't report finding scales, rubber stamps used to brand drugs, or various other packaging materials to suggest major dealing. 

"Mr. Vineberg is committed to confronting his problem and is committed to treatment," said Mr Kratt, adding that Vineberg's addiction had sapped his ability to work.

But a judge expressed scepticism over the  argument that the musician was just a drug user caught up in a high-profile probe.

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 career 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 jazz saxophone player and one of about 20 friends who went to court on Friday to show support for Vineberg.

“He an extrovert when it comes to music — otherwise, he's a very relaxed guy,” he added.

Mr 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 on Saturday that he and Mr Hoffman had been friends for about a year and last communicated by text message in December, trading messages about their mutual efforts at sobriety.

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

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

Associated Press

Last months of actor’s life paint a private struggle to cope with the breakdown of his personal life
Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman mourned at funeral in New York
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