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Brent Shapiro’s Final Hours

A coroner’s report concluded that the 24-year-old son of renowned defense attorney Robert Shapiro died last month from an accidental overdose of Ecstasy two days after he had to be carried from a Hollywood party. Brent Edward Shapiro attended the USC-Arizona football game on October 8 and that evening went to an “ ’80s party” at the American Legion post in Hollywood with his fiancée and friends. He drank beer and ingested Ecstasy at the party. Investigators said he began vomiting and had to be “carried to the shuttle van and was not talking coherently.” Before he left the party, a man identified in the report only as an Army medic with emergency-medical-technician training recommended that he drink plenty of water to clear out the Ecstasy. His friends took him to his fiancée’s apartment at about 3 a.m. Four hours later, his friends reported that he had become blue and completely “non-responsive and non-communicative.” Paramedics were called, and they took him to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead the next day at 4:30 p.m. Coroner’s investigators found that the USC music student, who spent three semesters on the dean’s list and planned to attend law school, suffered from a condition called mitral-valve prolapse, or a heart murmur, though it is not known whether it contributed to his death. Robert Shapiro told investigators that his son had been in rehabilitation for drug and alcohol abuse, and had been clean for about 18 months. In addition to providing details of Brent Shapiro’s cause of death, the report alleges that the hospital failed to notify authorities and accuses an organ-procurement firm of incorrectly telling the hospital that the death would not be a coroner’s case. The coroner’s office learned of the young man’s death from his father, who had asked the chief medical examiner to expedite the case, “as the family had already made arrangements for services to be held the next day at 9:30 a.m.,” and not from the hospital, as mandated by law. “Failure to notify the coroner immediately is a misdemeanor under California law,” said coroner’s office Chief Investigator Craig Harvey. “An overdose (or suspected overdose) is a case that is to be reported to the coroner. Period. Does not matter that the overdose was therapeutic, accidental or suicidal. They are all reportable.”

According to the report, the coroner’s office also learned that the organ-procurement company One Legacy had been given permission by the parents to remove Brent Shapiro’s liver, lungs and other organs. One Legacy representative Scott Snider told the Weekly that he couldn’t comment about the Shapiro case but said that it is up to the hospital to report any unusual deaths to the coroner. “We work closely with the hospital,” he said. “We certainly would make sure the coroner is involved. We want to cover all our bases. We are very family-driven. We don’t want to come back later and say there is a delay.” Wrote the investigator: “I asked him [Scott Snider] why he had not reported the death and he told me, “One Legacy doesn’t call except during daylight hours.” The investigator stated that “didn’t make sense” because Shapiro died at 4:30 p.m. the day before. A Cedars-Sinai spokeswoman had no immediate response, but said she would look into the matter. Harvey said organ donation involving a coroner’s case requires consent from both the family and the coroner. “As was the case here, someone made some decisions based on a faulty premise,” said Harvey. “It happens.” The Shapiro family later rescinded permission because it would have delayed burial services. A week after his son’s death, Shapiro appeared on Larry King Live and said that his son had taken half of an Ecstasy tablet and started to get violently ill and that there was “somebody there that claimed to be a medic that said his vital signs are fine” and that “he probably just had too much to drink, which he hadn’t.” Shapiro added, “He got sick. They didn’t recognize how sick he was. He started to vomit. He was told if they just took him home and he got sleep, he’d be fine. Seven o’clock in the morning he was turning blue.” Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline. Robert Shapiro is most famous for being a member of O.J. Simpson’s dream team, along with Johnnie Cochran. Shapiro’s clients have included Jose Canseco, Johnny Carson, Christian Brando and F. Lee Bailey. Shapiro is also the author of the New York Times best-seller The Search for Justice. After his son’s death, he founded the Brent Shapiro Foundation for Drug Awareness. A charity auction will be held on eBay on December 11. In addition to his father, Shapiro is survived by his mother, Linell, and a brother, Grant.