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Doctor Of Dead Wrestler Pleads Guilty To 175 Counts

Thursday, January 29, 2009 – updated: 12:47 pm EST January 29, 2009

In court Thursday morning, Dr. Phil Astin admitted he illegally prescribed drugs, sometimes without even examining the patients first.

Astin pleaded guilty to all 175 counts against him.

Federal prosecutors said Astin was already on the radar screen of drug agents, even before he was linked to the death of pro-wrestler Chris Benoit. Prosecutors said they began looking at Astin after another patient of Astin's, a woman, died in June 2007 after receiving prescriptions for large quantities of medication from Astin.

VIDEO: Benoit Doctor Pleads Guilty To 175 Counts

Thursday's plea referenced 19 patients who Astin treated for pain by writing hundreds of illegal prescriptions.

Astin's defense attorney made a point of describing him as a country doctor who inherited the practice from his father. "The patients that were discussed in the indictment were a very small subset. There are a lot of people in Carrollton that are very grateful to Dr. Astin for his care, many of whom had no pain problems. He has been a very good doctor for a lot of folks," said defense attorney Natasha Perdew-Silas.

"The point of going to a doctor is to help a patient and when the doctor doesn't provide a legitimate medical exam and prescribes controlled substances that are very addictive, obviously there's a great danger and I think that's reflected in the fact that one woman overdosed and died as a result of it," said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Horn.

Astin was a doctor for World Wrestling Entertainment's Chris Benoit.

Authorities say Benoit strangled his wife and son, then hanged himself in their home in June 2007. They've said Astin prescribed him anabolic steroids. A medical examiner couldn't say whether steroids played a role in the deaths.

Astin left the federal courthouse in Newnan without making any comment about his guilty plea. He will remain free until his sentencing.

Astin is facing a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million on each count.

The sentencing is scheduled for May.

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