Stern justice: the lawyer/boyfriend (left), Smith

Stern justice: the lawyer/boyfriend (left), Smith

Nearly three years after Anna Nicole Smith overdosed in a room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, a judge has ordered her boyfriend and two Los Angeles physicians to stand trial for illegally prescribing her with drugs. The decision came after a 13-day hearing during which the final years of the former Playboy playmate’s life were put on display through the accounts of witnesses, including a bodyguard and the father of her daughter, as well as provided by hundreds of pages of files from doctors’ offices, hospitals, and pharmacies. In rendering his decision, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry said the witness testimonies and medical records convinced him there had been “an ongoing and widespread effort” to obtain drugs for Smith, whom he says was clearly addicted to the medications. “I do find the people have met the test of convincing this court that there is strong suspicion the defendants committed the acts,” the judge said, but cautioned prosecutors that the standard of proof they needed during the preliminary hearing was “minimal,” and below that needed for a trial conviction. The trial for Howard K. Stern, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, and Dr. Sandeep Kapoor will likely begin next year, and is expected to last two to three months. The three face the possibility of prison if convicted of felonies related to violations of business and health codes that govern prescriptions. Eroshevich, a psychiatrist who provided the drugs that are blamed in the celebrity’s fatal overdose, and Kapoor, an internist who was Smith’s primary doctor until about five months before her death, are charged with writing opiate prescriptions in a false name, prescribing controlled substances to an addict, and obtaining opiates by fraud. Stern, Smith’s lawyer and longtime companion, is also charged with illegal prescribing, as prosecutors say he aided and abetted the doctors. The three have pleaded not guilty, and will be arraigned on December 11th. The prosecutors called witnesses who suggested that Stern, 40, was the pivotal figure in getting for Smith excessive amounts of addictive medication. Pharmacists, investigators, and others testified that the attorney picked up prescriptions, called in refill orders, used his own name on prescription pads to obtain more meds for the model, and vetoed efforts to get Smith into rehab. Smith’s bodyguard, Maurice Brighthaupt, said that when he urged Stern to get Smith into treatment, Stern replied, “It would kill her.” Larry Birkhead, her ex-boyfriend and the father of Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn, said that at the same time she was being weaned off of methadone, Stern sneaked extra doses of the drug into the hospital. Both Birkhead and Brighthaupt said they believed that Smith was addicted to a buffet-line of sedatives and opiates including methadone, Xanax, Valium, Soma, chloral hydrate, Topamax, and the painkiller Dilaudid, which is known as “hospital heroin.”