LOS ANGELES (AP) – A jury on Thursday convicted Anna Nicole Smith’s psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich and boyfriend Howard K. Stern of conspiracy counts but acquitted the doctor who prescribed drugs for the former Playboy model of all charges.
Prosecutors contended during the nine-week trial that 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.
The jury deliberated about 58 hours after being asked to decide if the three defendants were trying to relieve Smith’s emotional and physical pain or were feeding her addiction to prescription drugs.
The only conviction against Stern was for giving false names and acting by fraud to obtain prescriptions. Eroshevich was also convicted of unlawfully prescribing Vicodin by fraud.
The jury acquitted defendant Dr. Sandeep Kapoor of all charges. The jury found the prosecution did not present enough evidence to convict Kapoor of six charges that he provided excessive prescription drugs to Smith.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy, excessive prescribing of opiates and sedatives to an addict, and fraudulently obtaining drugs by using false names.
The defendants were not charged in Smith’s 2007 accidental overdose death in Florida.
Stern, 41, had been Smith’s lawyer, manager, lover and friend since they met in 2001. Testimony showed they were inseparable, even when she was involved with other men.
In 2006, Smith donned a wedding gown, and she and Stern had a commitment ceremony on a catamaran off the Bahamas. They exchanged rings and vows but were never legally married.
At the heart of the drug case was the question of whether Smith became dependent on opiates and sedatives after being diagnosed and treated for chronic pain syndrome and illnesses including seizures, migraines and spinal pain.
Superior Court Judge Robert Perry told the jury of six women and six men that a doctor who has a good faith belief that a patient is in pain is not guilty of a crime for prescribing controlled substances to relieve suffering.
While presenting their case, prosecutors displayed multiple prescriptions to Smith for heavy painkillers such as Dilaudid, Demarol, Vicodin and Methadone, as well as anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives including Ambien, Xanax, Valium and Chloral Hydrate. In one month, they said, Smith received 1,500 pills.
The judge, however, warned that numbers of pills were not the measure of addiction.
“To violate (the law) a defendant must willfully and knowingly prescribe, administer or dispense a controlled substance to an addict for a non-therapeutic purpose,” Perry instructed the jury.
Each defendant faced a possible maximum sentence of four years in prison if convicted of all the charges. They also could lose their professional licenses.
The story of Smith’s final years stretched from Los Angeles to the Bahamas with stops along the way in South Carolina and Florida, where her overdose death at the age of 39 was ruled accidental.
The two doctors also were close to Smith during her final years, and their lawyers portrayed them as angels of mercy trying to help her before and after she gave birth to her daughter by cesarean then quickly lost her 20-year-old son, Daniel, to a drug overdose.
He died in her hospital room after coming to visit his new half-sister on Sept. 10, 2006. Smith later named the baby Dannielynn in his memory.
Stern initially claimed the baby was his until DNA tests made clear the father was photographer Larry Birkhead, who now has custody of the child.
Defense attorney Steve Sadow, who represents Stern, said Smith was the love of his client’s life and he would never harm her. He also stressed that Stern was not a doctor and was relying on medical professionals to do the right thing for Smith.
Stern’s name was on a number of prescriptions which prosecutors said were intended for Smith.
Kapoor, 42, who was Smith’s internist, wrote numerous prescriptions for opiates and sedatives during the period he treated her. His lawyer, Ellyn Garafalo, said he followed a drug regimen originated by Smith’s previous doctor who sold his practice to Kapoor.
Prosecutors Renee Rose and David Barkhurst argued that Kapoor blurred the line between patient and doctor when he was photographed kissing her at a party. They also pointed to a diary in which Kapoor discussed the “mesmerizing” experience of riding with her in a gay pride parade and wondered: “Can she ruin me?”
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 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 and took them to Smith in the Bahamas.
They also showed jurors photos of Eroshevich naked in a bathtub with Smith as they contended the doctor also lost her objectivity about treatment.
Attorney Brad Brunon, who represents Eroshevich, said prosecutors were trying to prejudice jurors with something irrelevant.
“People on the ground saw her as caring for Anna Nicole Smith,” Brunon said of Eroshevich. “And what is her reward? She’s dragged through this, her name is ruined, and she’s publicly humiliated.”
Smith made headlines in 1994 when she married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, who was 63 years her senior.
When she died on Feb. 8, 2007, her legal battle for a share of the $1.6 billion fortune of her late husband was ongoing. It has been carried forward by Stern, the executor of Smith’s estate.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to hear another challenge in the case.
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