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AG: Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend was 'enabler'

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[March 14, 2009]  LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Anna Nicole Smith's lawyer-turned-boyfriend was the principal enabler in a conspiracy with two doctors to provide the "known addict" thousands of prescription pills in the months before she died of an overdose, California Attorney General Jerry Brown said Friday.

Howard K. Stern and Drs. Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor were charged by Los Angeles County prosecutors after a two-year probe by the attorney general, state medical and insurance officials and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Doctors do not have a license to pump innocent and often vulnerable people full of dangerous chemicals," Brown told a news conference. "Somebody died here, and this is bad business."

In addition to conspiracy, the charges filed Thursday include unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance and prescribing, administering or dispensing a controlled substance to an addict. Stern faces six felony counts and the doctors face seven each.

Each defendant faces up to five years, eight months in prison, district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

"Howard K. Stern is the principal enabler, and Dr. Eroshevich and Dr. Kapoor are prescribing drugs excessively to a known addict and using false and fictitious names, all in violation of the law," Brown said.

Medical Board of California spokeswoman Candis Cohen said action would be taken against the two doctors' medical licenses after the criminal proceedings had been resolved. A range of disciplinary action could be taken, depending on the evidence, including possible revocation of their licenses.

Smith's life had become a tabloid fixture by the time she died Feb. 8, 2007, in Florida. Embroiled in a battle to inherit millions of dollars from her late billionaire husband's estate, her own son had died shortly after she gave birth to a girl.

Asked what may have been the motive for the alleged conspiracy, Brown suggested the potent allure of wealth and glamour.

"There's a certain psychic gain here, part of the glitz and the celebrity and the power. There's a lot of money floating around," he said. "Is it self-indulgence? Is it some power trip? Is it just getting some contact high off of celebrity? That remains to be seen."

Stern and Kapoor turned themselves in Thursday night and each posted $20,000 bond. Eroshevich was expected to surrender Monday.

Her attorney, Adam Braun, acknowledged Eroshevich wrote some of the prescriptions using fictitious names for Smith, but asserted it was for privacy reasons and not intended to commit fraud.

Braun said Eroshevich began treating Smith in September 2006 when she suffered a nervous breakdown stemming from the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, from an accidental drug overdose three days after his mother gave birth to a girl.

Brown declined to comment when asked if there was a trail leading to Daniel Smith from doctors in California, nor did he comment on whether other individuals may face charges.

"We have given you the evidence that we think is ready for the prosecution," he said.

Eroshevich, who was Smith's psychiatrist, traveled several times over six months to the Bahamas, where Smith was living with Stern and wrote the prescriptions.

The criminal complaint also alleges Kapoor gave her excessive amounts of sleep aids, opiates, muscle relaxants and methadone-like drugs used to treat addiction, knowing she was an addict. Kapoor saw Smith in the spring of 2006 when she was treated at a Los Angeles County hospital for opiate withdrawal and prenatal care for the pregnancy of her daughter Dannielynn, according to the complaint.

Stern's attorney L. Lin Wood said he anticipated releasing a statement about the case sometime Friday.

Kapoor's attorney, Ellyn Garofalo, said the charges were without merit.

"I was surprised that after all this time, these charges surfaced suddenly like they did," she said. "They are attempting to impose criminal penalties against a doctor who acted in good faith and provided the best medical care he was able to under the circumstances. If not for the fact this was Anna Nicole, I don't think these changes would have been filed."

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Garofalo said her client specialized in gerontology and had inherited Smith as a patient when he took over the medical practice of her former doctor in Los Angeles about five years ago.

Smith was found unconscious in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near Hollywood, Fla. The former Playboy centerfold and Guess jeans model died the same day at a hospital. Her death was ruled an accidental drug overdose.

Aside from her time in the pages of Playboy, Smith gained notoriety for her marriage to J. Howard Marshall II, the Texas oil billionaire 63 years her senior whom she met while dancing at a Houston club. The pair married in 1994; she was 26, he was 89, and Marshall died the following year.

In 2002, Smith debuted her own reality TV show - the tagline for which was "she's so outrageous" - in which cameras followed her through her daily life, often showing her in incoherent states. The star struggled with her weight and in 2003 became a spokeswoman for TrimSpa diet pills.

Stern originally claimed to be the father of Smith's daughter, Dannielynn, but it was later established through a paternity test that photographer Larry Birkhead is the dad.

Jean Rosenbluth, a law professor at the University of Southern California, said prosecutors likely would have considered a range of charges including more serious ones.

They probably settled on the current charges, she said, because proving more serious allegations would have meant they needed to show malicious intent - something that may or may not have been present.

"The intent is always going to be key," she said. "Was it always about making money, was it completely reckless and indifferent, or was there some, no matter how misguided, non-nefarious reason the defendant took the action?"

Loyola University Law School professor Laurie Levenson said prosecutors may have chosen not to file manslaughter or murder charges because "they did not establish exactly what caused her death. ... It's hard to say who is accountable for an accidental overdose."

Brown, who is contemplating a run for governor next year, used his time at the podium to denounce abuse of prescription drugs and the "growing threat" from "people in white smocks in pharmacies ... with their medical degrees."

"Doctors do not have a license to pump innocent and often vulnerable people full of dangerous chemicals," he said. "These cocktails of methadone and antidepressants and sleeping pills and Xanax - you put all that into a cocktail, it explodes."

Arraignments had been set for May 13, he said.


Associated Press writers Raquel Maria Dillon, Greg Risling and Linda Deutsch in Los Angeles and Matt Sedensky in Miami contributed to this report.

[Associated Press; By THOMAS WATKINS]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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