I didn’t kill him — and I could’ve saved him, insists Philip Seymour Hoffman’s accused heroin dealer, breaking his silence for the first time since the actor’s death last Sunday.
“He was my friend,” jazz musician and admitted junkie Robert Vineberg told The Post in an exclusive jailhouse interview on Rikers Island Saturday.
“I could’ve saved him,” Vineberg said, wearing a gray prison jumpsuit and hunching pensively at a red table in a jail visiting area.
“If I knew he was in town, I would’ve said, ‘Hey, let’s make an AA meeting.’ If I was with him, it wouldn’t have happened. Not under my guard.”
Vineberg, 57, said he had known the 46-year-old “Capote” star for about a year.
Hoffman injected, Vine*berg said, while he only snorted.
Vineberg denied he had sold the 73 bags of heroin found in Hoffman’s Greenwich Village apartment. When asked if he had ever sold Hoffman drugs, he *declined to answer.
“When we got together, we talked about books. And art. He was a normal guy. You wouldn’t know he was an Oscar winner.”
“He loved his kids. I offer my condolences to his family.”
Vineberg said he was “devastated” by Hoffman’s death and described the star’s final, four-month struggle against drugs.
He claims he last saw Hoffman — high — in *October.
The two were at Vineberg’s Mott Street apartment — where some 300 bags of heroin were seized in a raid last week after an informant told cops he had witnessed Hoffman scoring there.
Hoffman then went on a 28-day rehab stint, followed by a trip to Atlanta to shoot the upcoming “Hunger Games” movie.
Their last contact came in December over e-mail and text, Vineberg says.
Hoffman’s phone number was found on Vineberg’s cellphone and two others recovered from the Mott Street apartment, police sources say.
“He left me a voicemail in December saying, ‘I’m clean,’ ” Vineberg recalled.
Vineberg, who himself managed to stay clean for a week at a time between relapses, was also abstaining.
“We’d text back and forth, ‘Oh, I got one day on you!’ ‘No I’ve got one day on you,’ ” Vineberg recalled.
But sometime around the end of the year, the men lost touch and relapsed, he said.
“When you’re clean for that long of a time, your body can’t take as much,” Vineberg said of Hoffman’s final plunge off the wagon. “Your body doesn’t have the tolerance.
“He was using needles. He was a hard-core addict.”
Vineberg is convinced that Hoffman’s habit was 10 bags a day.
“How much was he found with? Seventy bags. You do the math . . . That’s a one-week supply,” he said.
Law-enforcement sourc*es backed that estimate, with one noting, “It was a very bad habit.”
The amount is twice what experts consider the “average” junkie’s intake.
“You could easily take an extra bag or two and not be aware of it . . . lose count. And that can be your overdose,” said Columbia University heroin expert Dr. David Rosenthal.
Vineberg was charged with felony drug possession and was one of three suspected dealers charged in connection with Hoffman.
“Don’t you understand? I’m a scapegoat,” Vineberg complained.
Vineberg has played sax and written horn arrangements for artists including Madonna, Wyclef Jean and the late, drug-addicted pop singer Amy Winehouse, but he has fallen on hard times recently.
“All of the evidence adduced to date has indicated that Robert did not provide to Mr. Hoffman the narcotics that caused his unfortunate death,” Vineberg’s lawyer, Ed Kratt, said Saturday.
“The evidence also shows that Robert and Mr. Hoffman were true friends who had bonded over and struggled with the dangerous use of narcotic drugs,” the attorney said.
New York Post
February 9, 2014
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