Howard K. Stern and two medical professionals face a list of felony charges

By Howard Breuer
August 04, 2010 07:50 PM
Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Anna Nicole Smith was doped up on drugs – with the help of two doctors and her lawyer boyfriend – until the model-actress died, a prosecutor told jurors in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday.

Smith’s boyfriend Howard K. Stern, personal physician Sandeep Kapoor, 41, and psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich, 61, face several felony charges in the long-awaited trial that kicked off Wednesday.

In opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose told the L.A. jury that Stern helped get drugs for Smith in illegal ways. She also alleged that Kapoor and Eroshevich “prescribed powerful and addictive medications without treating the underlying” addiction.

Kapoor, Eroshevich, and Stern each face up to five years in prison if convicted of charges, including unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance to an addict, obtaining a prescription by deceit, fraud, and conspiracy. They have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Lays Out the Case

During her opening statement, Rose displayed a video of Smith acting loopy and possibly drugged during a presentation at the 2004 American Music Awards. She also noted a long list of prescription drugs found in Smith’s body after her death in 2007 at age 39.

Among the evidence Rose also mentioned: Drugs prescribed to “Howard K. Stearn,” a misspelled version of Stern’s name, and notes hidden in Kapoor’s closet indicating he was going against a colleague’s advice not to develop personal relationships with patients. “I was making out with Anna, my patient, blurring the lines,” Kapoor allegedly wrote. “I gave her methadone, Valium. Can she ruin me?”

Kapoor’s attorney, Ellyn Garofalo, said that encounter was the only time the two socialized, and emphasized that Kapoor was not involved in prescribing drugs during the last five months of Smith s life.

Eroshevich’s attorney, meanwhile, said her client was “not a pill mill” and the drugs were legally prescribed to Smith for medical purposes.

Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur, stared intently at the defendants from the back row and held hands with her husband, James. “This brings all the hurt back,” Arthur said.

Attorney: Howard K. Stern Loved Anna

Stern’s lawyer, Steven Sadow, said his client was unaware he was breaking any laws by getting drugs for Smith under his name or made-up names. “Celebrities in Hollywood apparently use aliases like that all the time,” Sadow said in his opening statement.

He added that Smith was not an addict, but merely a headstrong woman who made sure she got medications that were prescribed by legitimate doctors who struggled to cure her chronic pain.

“She was her own person, and if you wanted things a different way, she would say, ‘Get your ass out,’ ” Sadow told the jury, adding that Stern just wanted to take care of Smith, especially after her son Daniel’s death the previous year pushed her into a deep depression.

“He cared for her,” said Sadow. “He cherished her. He loved her.”

The trial is expected to last about three months.