Anna Nicole Smith’s former confidant and lawyer pleaded not guilty today to charges of furnishing illegal prescription drugs to the late Playboy model in the years leading up to her 2007 fatal overdose.
Following the arraignment in L.A. County Superior Court, an attorney for Howard K. Stern said he plans to seek a complete dismissal of the charges on the grounds that the law is meant for medical professionals.
“Howard is not a doctor, not a medical practitioner and the statute does not apply to him,” lawyer Steve Sadow said outside court as Stern stood silently at his side.
Authorities have portrayed Stern, 40, as the linchpin – or “principal enabler” according to the state attorney general – of a conspiracy to provide Smith with thousands of pills, including methadone, Xanax and Ambien.
Stern’s co-defendants, physicians Sandeep Kapoor, 40, and Khristine Eroshevich, 61, also pleaded not guilty today. Commissioner Kristi Lousteau ordered the doctors and Stern to provide handwriting samples to investigators.
The writing of prescriptions is the heart of the case against the trio. In court filings, prosecutors have said the three used fake names on prescriptions to funnel inappropriate amounts of medication to Smith even though they knew she was an addict.
The 39-year-old model and spokeswoman died in a Florida hotel room two years ago, five months after her 20-year-old son, Daniel, suffered a fatal overdose from drugs. A lawyer for Eroshevich, a psychiatrist, has said she was treating Smith for depression and postpartum depression stemming from the birth of her daughter.
The judge also imposed a protective order barring attorneys from disseminating some 1,400 pages of evidence that prosecutors are in the process of turning over to the defense. A lawyer for Kapoor told reporters that he is continuing to practice medicine as the case progresses.
“His patients have been very supportive and he appreciates that,” said attorney Ellyn Garofolo.
The defendants are due back in court in June to set a date for the preliminary hearing, which is expected to last at least two weeks.
— Harriet Ryan