Entertainment behind the scenes
UPDATE: Calif. Attorney General Jerry Brown defends prosecution in Anna Nicole death
When former Playboy model and television star Anna Nicole Smith died at age 39 two years ago of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, questions arose about how she obtained the substances that killed her. Last month, California Attorney General Jerry Brown gave his answer when he brought charges accusing Smith’s former companion, Howard K. Stern, and two doctors of plying her with drugs.
On Tuesday, it was Stern’s turn to give his version of what happened, following media reports that he has no intention of negotiating with prosecutors and pleading guilty to a lesser charge in return for lenient sentencing. Speaking outside of court, where Stern was to have been arraigned, Stern’s attorney said his client is innocent of the “baseless allegations made against him.”
“Howard loved Anna Nicole with all of his heart and would have never done anything intentional to harm her,” said Stern’s attorney, Steve Sadow. He also took a shot at Brown, saying the former California governor, widely seen as a potential gubernatorial candidate again next year, “has chosen to sacrifice Anna’s medical privacy to further his own political agenda.”
Brown fired back later in the day, calling Sadow’s comments a “smoke and mirrors tactic.”
“These are serious charges involving conspiracies to violate state prescription drug laws,” Brown told Reuters. “So this is a very sound case, and the defense lawyer, instead of engaging in diversionary rhetoric on a street corner should be preparing himself for a trial on the merits.”
Along with Stern, authorities have charged doctors Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich. The three are accused of conspiracy and prescribing controlled substances to Smith starting in 2004. They each face a maximum of five years and eight months in state prison if convicted.
Attorney Adam Braun, who is representing Eroshevich, said his client, “had two choices – to turn her back on her patient, or to do her best under some difficult circumstances, and she chose the latter.”
“We look forward to a full hearing of the facts, so the public understands the actions (undertaken) by Dr. Khristine Eroshevich were done with the best interests of the patient in mind,” Braun said.
A judge on Tuesday delayed the arraignment of Stern and Eroshevich, and all three defendants are now set to enter their pleas in mid-May. All had previously been booked and released on bail.
Brown said last month that his prosecution of Stern and the doctors was a high-profile first step in a larger campaign to crack down on doctors who dole out addictive drugs to patients. Smith allegedly was supplied with Ambien, hydromorphone, methadone, Xanax and other drugs.
The action taken against her former doctors seems reminiscent of a federal crackdown early in the 20th century on U.S. doctors who prescribed opiates, at a time when medication containing the addictive substances was readily available, even by postal delivery.
In Smith’s case, the drugs proved especially tragic because her 20-year-old son, Daniel, died shortly before she did, with his demise resulting from an overdose of prescription drugs and methadone. Prosecutors have not linked Daniel Smith’s death to Stern and the two doctors.