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Lawyer for wrestler's doctor wants out of case

ATLANTA - The lawyer for pro wrestler Chris Benoit's personal doctor, who faces federal charges of overprescribing medication, asked a judge Wednesday for permission to withdraw from the case because his client can no longer pay his legal fees and expenses.

Manny Arora said in a motion in U.S. District Court in Atlanta that since being placed under house arrest in the case, Phil Astin has been unable to work and foreclosure notices and other liens have been placed on his real estate interests.

'Since his arrest, defendant Astin has become and is currently indigent,' Arora wrote.

Arora said the cost of defending Astin is expected to be expensive and could run into the tens of thousands of dollars just for copying and scanning medical documents at issue in the case.

'Due to defendant Astin's indigent status, undersigned counsel respectfully asks that this honorable court enter an order permitting him to withdraw as counsel of record for the defendant,' Arora wrote in his motion.

There was no immediate ruling by the court. If Arora's request is granted, Astin would have to find another attorney, or if the court deems him indigent it would appoint an attorney to represent him at court cost.

Arora said in a telephone interview that his request is relatively uncommon, but it will be up to the judge how to proceed. He declined further comment until after a hearing in the case scheduled for Thursday. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.

Astin has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of improperly prescribing painkillers and other drugs to two patients other than Benoit. More federal charges against Astin are expected.

Prosecutors have said Benoit, 40, strangled his wife with a cord, used a choke hold to strangle his 7-year-old son, placed Bibles next to the bodies and hanged himself on a piece of exercise equipment the weekend of June 22.

Authorities have said Astin prescribed a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids to Benoit every three to four weeks between May 2006 and May 2007.

Steroid use has lingered as a theory behind the killings, since anabolic steroids were found in Benoit's home and tests conducted by authorities showed Benoit had roughly 10 times the normal level of testosterone in his system when he died.

Some experts believe that use of testosterone can contribute to paranoia, depression and violent outbursts known as 'roid rage.'

Benoit's father believes years of head trauma his son suffered while in the ring contributed to the killings.

Doctors affiliated with the Sports Legacy Institute, who examined Benoit's brain, have said that repeated concussions could have contributed to the killings, but they don't know for sure.