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December 19, 2014

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No jail for man arrested amid Hoffman death probe

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Victoria Will / Invision / AP

In this Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, photo, Philip Seymour Hoffman is at The Collective and Gibson Lounge Powered by CEG during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Hoffman was found dead Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in his New York apartment. He was 46.

NEW YORK — A friend of Philip Seymour Hoffman who was arrested after the actor's overdose death pleaded guilty on Thursday to a low-level drug charge in a deal that spared him jail time.

Robert Vineberg was ordered to serve five years of probation, continue drug treatment and forfeit $1,284 that police seized at his home two days after Hoffman died.

The guilty plea to drug possession came after prosecutors dropped a more serious charge accusing Vineberg of possessing 300 packets of heroin with the intent to sell it. A conviction could have resulted in jail time for the 58-year-old jazz musician from Canada and his possible deportation.

In court on Thursday, a prosecutor cited issues with evidence as the reason for dropping the charge. The decision came after a hearing at which two detectives admitted they had not read Vineberg his Miranda Rights before he made statements to them.

Defense attorney Alex Spiro said he was "pleased with the outcome, as it is fair and just."

"Mr. Vineberg will be able to get the treatment he needs and move on with his life and career," Spiro said in a statement.

Police arrested Vineberg as they followed leads after Hoffman's Feb. 2 death in his Manhattan home from a combination of heroin, cocaine and other drugs. He was never charged with having a role in the "Capote" star's death.

Vineberg, who uses the stage name Robert Aaron, has said he and Hoffman were friends but hadn't been in touch since late last year. He was scheduled to perform Thursday night at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square.

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