Anna Nicole Smith drug verdicts spell trouble for Jackson doctor

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The Independent US

Two of the people who helped supply Anna Nicole Smith with the prescription drugs that killed her are facing prison after a jury found them guilty on several counts of conspiracy, in what was widely billed as a test case regarding the excesses of celebrity doctors.

Howard K Stern, the former Playboy model's boyfriend and lawyer was convicted on two charges of illegally helping medics provide the painkillers, which caused her to choke to death on her own vomit in a Florida hotel room almost four years ago.

Smith's former psychiatrist, Khristine Eroshevich, was found guilty of four counts of obtaining medication through fraud, after accepting tens of thousands of dollars to prescribe potentially dangerous drugs to her wealthy client under a false name.

"They were found guilty of conspiracy, rather than of being directly responsible for her death, which of course is less serious. But in a high-profile case, like this, I would expect both to get some jail time," said Steve Cron, a Los Angeles defence lawyer.

A third defendant, the surgically-enhanced victim's doctor, Sandeep Kapoor, was acquitted of six charges of administering excessive quantities of drugs. The jury found Stern not guilty of seven charges and Eroshevich not guilty of two.

The verdicts, announced late on Thursday, end a soap-opera case in which the prosecution alleged that the defendants had "repeatedly and excessively" supplied their 39-year-old client with addictive medications. Adding to the tawdriness, all three of the accused had sexual relations with Smith in the weeks leading up to her death. During trial the jury saw prurient photos of them in a hot-tub.

After Smith died in February 2007, medical examiners found 11 different substances in her bloodstream. Several of the medicines had been prescribed not to her, but to the defendants, who in one month helped her get hold of 1,500 pills.

In their defence, lawyers for Stern and Eroshevich said their clients only agreed to use fake names on prescriptions to protect Smith from bad publicity. They denied responsibility for feeding her addiction and "enabling" her death.

The guilty verdict is inevitably being picked over by soothsayers trying to predict the direction of the forthcoming trial of Dr Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson's former physician. He faces a more serious charge, involuntary manslaughter, in a case due to begin in January.

"This verdict underlines the fact that people who work for celebrities, or are their doctors... cannot bypass normal rules," said Mr Cron. "One of the reasons the DA brought the Anna Nicole case, after what happened to Michael Jackson, was to make that point."

Smith achieved notoriety in 1994 by marrying Texan billionaire Howard Marshall. She was 26 and he was 89. When he died 14 months later, her fight for his inheritance reached the Supreme Court. That battle is still rumbling on. Last month the Supreme Court agreed to hear a fresh challenge to its original verdict, which granted Smith and her descendants almost all of Marshall's $1.6bn (£1bn) legacy.

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