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Aide to American producer killed by drugs fined in Uganda

/ Source: Reuters

An assistant to an American television producer who died after taking contaminated cocaine in Uganda pleaded guilty on Thursday to drug possession, paid a fine and was freed, her lawyers said.

Kathryne Fuller, 29, was charged with possession of cocaine after taking drugs with producer Jeff Rice, who was found dead in a Kampala hotel on February 18.

An official toxicology report confirmed the drug was in Rice's blood, dispelling initial suspicions that the father-of-two known for his work on the U.S. show "The Amazing Race" had been poisoned by attackers.

"She was given the option of a fine of 1 million shillings ($420) or six months' imprisonment," Paul Rutisya, Fuller's lawyer, told Reuters. "We (paid) the fine."

The South African woman was found unconscious in a hotel room at the same time that Rice's body was discovered.

"I took cocaine and I passed out. I can't remember what happened after that. I woke up in the hospital," Fuller said.

Fuller has been released by Ugandan authorities to go home to South Africa and seek medical treatment. She has been paralyzed down her right side since taking the drug and was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair.

"I feel much better knowing that I'm free to go," she said.

"I have to go to South Africa for them to figure out what is wrong, for them to do an MRI (scan) to figure out what exactly is not working and why it's not working."

Fuller's lawyers had said she was being held unlawfully in Uganda since she had not been charged with a crime within the legal time limit.

Her father, Stewart Fuller, said he was happy to be taking his daughter home. "I think the fine was reasonable (and) I think she will remember this for a very long time," he said.

Police have a 23-year-old Ugandan man in their custody whom they accuse of supplying the two with cocaine.

Moses Kalanzi was charged on Thursday with manslaughter and a negligent act causing death, as well as two drug-related offences. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.