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NATION IN BRIEF

Friday, July 13, 2007

DEA Expands Probe of Dead Wrestler's Doctor

ATLANTA -- Federal agents have expanded their investigation of professional wrestler Chris Benoit's personal physician to include former patients and other patients of his who have died, and they seized records dated as far back as 2002, two years earlier than previously acknowledged, the Associated Press has learned.

An affidavit by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent that was part of a warrant to search Phil Astin's west Georgia office for a third time said investigators on Tuesday seized 68 boxes of documents, including patient records and billing statements.

The affidavit said agents were looking for medical records of inactive or deceased patients, including those on medical tests, test results and physician notes.

The search followed a statement agents received last Friday from an unidentified source who was associated with Astin's practice and has known him for about 10 years. The source said files for former patients or patients who have died may have been stored in a copy room at Astin's office, the affidavit said.

The records "will be relevant and material to this ongoing investigation," the affidavit said, without elaborating.

Also seized from Astin's office, the affidavit states, were records of a Nov. 19, 2002, prescription for 200 milligrams of depo-testosterone, an injectable steroid, that was written for an unidentified patient. When Astin was charged last week with improperly prescribing medication to two patients other than Benoit, the indictment referred only to prescriptions dating to 2004.

A sheriff's official previously said that Astin is also being investigated in the February 2006 death of another wrestler, Michael Durham.

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· CAPE CANAVERAL -- Two top NASA officials, including the man in charge of developing new spacecraft for missions to the moon and Mars, plan to leave the space agency, a spokeswoman said. Former astronaut Scott J. "Doc" Horowitz, who heads NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, will leave by October, and Associate Administrator Rex Geveden will leave at the end of July. The timing of both decisions was coincidental, and neither was asked to leave by NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, the spokeswoman said.

· FRESNO, Calif. -- After a week of battling high temperatures, gusting winds and lightning, firefighters caught enough of a break from a storm system to tame California's largest wildfire, in Inyo Forest. Wildfires, meanwhile, were still burning elsewhere in California and 11 other Western states.

· RALEIGH, N.C. -- The North Carolina State Bar issued a formal order disbarring former district attorney Michael B. Nifong for his handling of the now-discredited rape case against three Duke University lacrosse players. Nifong must surrender his law license to the bar no later than 30 days from when he is served the order. He must also pay costs linked to his ethics trial.

· NEW ORLEANS -- Louisiana Attorney General Charles C. Foti Jr. said he will review as much as 10 years' worth of murder and other violent-crime cases handled by the New Orleans district attorney's office to improve prosecutions amid the city's spiraling homicide rate.

-- From News Services

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