Verdict Ends Chapter In Anna Nicole Smith Tabloid Saga
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A final chapter in Anna Nicole Smith’s made-for-tabloids life story has ended with a jury absolving her doctor of prescribing excessive drugs and convicting a psychiatrist and Smith’s lawyer-boyfriend of conspiring to fake names on prescriptions.
The nine-week trial brought the aura of glamour surrounding the late Playboy model to the courtroom through photos and videos of the beautiful blond who starred in her own reality TV show.
In death, she still managed to be the star of the high profile trial.
Howard K. Stern, who was Smith’s manager, lawyer and lover, was acquitted Thursday of seven of the 11 charges originally lodged against him. Superior Court Judge Robert Perry had already dismissed two charges against Stern. The jury found him guilty of two conspiracy counts and specified they were for obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and giving a false name for a prescription.
Dr. Khristine Eroshevich was convicted of conspiring with Stern on the fraud and false name allegations and was convicted on two separate counts of unlawfully prescribing and obtaining Vicodin through fraud and use of a false name.
Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, 42, who prescribed an array of sedatives and opiates to Smith, was acquitted of prescribing excessive drugs and prescribing to an addict. He hailed his acquittal as a triumph for the medical field of pain management.
“This is not just a victory for me, but for patients everywhere who suffer chronic pain,” an emotional Kapoor said outside court.
His lawyer Ellyn Garofalo said it also was a victory for Smith.
“The jury found she was not an addict,” Garofalo said.
The 39-year-old Smith died of an accidental drug overdose in Florida in 2007, but the defendants were not charged in her death.
The six women and six men on the jury sat through weeks of testimony and deliberated for 58 hours over 13 days. They left quickly and eluded reporters seeking comment.
Prosecutors Renee Rose and David Barkhurst also declined comment, saying the case was not yet concluded. A hearing was set for Jan. 6 for new trial motions and, if those are denied, sentencing. It was unclear how much prison time Stern and Eroshevich could face.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said in a written statement he was pleased there were some guilty verdicts.
The prosecutors contended the defendants were dazzled by Smith’s glamor and filled her demands for prescription drugs to protect their insider status in her personal life and her celebrity world. Jurors appeared to reject that argument.
The panel deadlocked on a number of prescribing allegations against Eroshevich and Stern.
Defense attorneys portrayed the defendants as angels of mercy who were trying to help Smith cope with her chronic pain, particularly after she gave birth to her daughter by cesarean then quickly lost her 20-year-old son, Daniel, to a drug overdose.
As he left the courthouse, Stern, 41, told reporters: “Everything relating to the appropriateness of the medication, I was acquitted of.”
His lawyer, Steve Sadow, said Stern never denied using his name on Smith’s prescriptions but maintained Stern didn’t know it was illegal.
“The judge has the power to sentence Howard as a misdemeanor offender and not a felon,” Sadow said Friday on CBS’s “The Early Show.” “We are hopeful and expecting that the judge will be willing to do that under all these circumstances and that Howard will not go to jail for any reason.”
Eroshevich, 63, was Smith’s neighbor and friend before treating her as a psychiatrist. Prosecutors claimed the friendship was a violation of professional ethics and called as a witness a pharmacist who testified the amount of drugs Eroshevich requested for Smith at one point would have amounted to pharmaceutical suicide.
The pharmacist refused to fill the request, and prosecutors showed Eroshevich used other pharmacies to get most of the drugs, some under fictitious names, and took them to Smith in the Bahamas.
“I feel relieved,” Eroshevich said outside court. “I’m just happy it’s over.”
Stern and Eroshevich remained free pending the next hearing, Both could face loss of their professional licenses to practice.
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