LOS ANGELES – A judge who once warned that if he disagreed with jury verdicts in the Anna Nicole Smith prescription drug case he might make changes in those decisions now has the chance to do just that at sentencing for a psychiatrist and Smith's lawyer boyfriend.
Attorneys for Dr. Khristine Eroshevich and Howard K. Stern are asking that their felony convictions be reduced to misdemeanors, or dismissed. In the alternative they are asking for a new trial.
In a surprising turnaround, the prosecution which once sought to send the defendants to prison now is asking for no time behind bars and is recommending felony probation, community service and fines. Prosecutors strongly opposed reduction of charges to misdemeanors and said there is "ample evidence to support the verdicts."
The sentencing marks the denouement of a long-running drama centering on the blonde beauty's troubled life, which was documented on reality TV, in tabloids and in trial testimony. Smith also made headlines in a continuing $300 million court fight with the estate of her oil tycoon husband.
Superior Court Judge Robert Perry made his remarks in September when the defense launched a strong bid to have the entire case dismissed.
Perry said he saw weaknesses in the prosecution case but felt he had to let the jury decide most of the charges. He said that in the past he had changed verdicts when he did not agree with them.
At that time, he dismissed two charges against Stern which were similar to two counts on which he was ultimately convicted — obtaining drugs for Smith under false names.
"I don't think there's evidence that a layperson knows it's illegal to write a prescription in another name for a celebrity," the judge said then, noting that Stern is not a doctor.
Jurors handed a total acquittal for Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, Smith's primary physician. But they convicted Stern and Eroshevich of conspiring to violate the false name statute to obtain pain killers for the former Playboy model. Eroshevich also was convicted of obtaining Vicodin by fraud.
The case was launched last year amid much fanfare by then California Attorney General and now Gov. Jerry Brown who denounced the defendants as conspirators in over-prescribing prescription drugs to Smith whom he called "a known addict." He accused them of being lured by Hollywood glamor. After a three-week preliminary hearing and a nine-week trial, jurors essentially rejected those claims and convicted on few of the 11 charges. Witnesses said Smith was not an addict but a woman struggling with chronic pain.
This week, prosecutors advocated sentencing both defendants to five years of supervised probation, 300 hours each of community service, with Stern working for Caltrans, California's highway maintenance department. They suggested Eroshevich's community service be directed by the California Medical Board and that each defendant pay a $5,000 fine.
Their sentencing memo also asked that Eroshevich, 63, be barred from prescribing controlled substances, severely limiting her ability to continue practicing medicine. Her lawyer argued she has already lost her reputation and much of her practice and nothing is to be gained from further pillorying of her.
Both Eroshevich and Stern, 41, could lose their professional licenses if their felony convictions stand.
Stern had been Smith's lawyer, manager, lover and friend since they met in 2001. His lawyer argued that Smith was the love of his life and he would never do anything to harm her. Eroshevich was described as a caring doctor and friend who flew to her side in the Bahamas after Smith's son died of a drug overdose and she went into an emotional decline.
Smith died after suffering a drug overdose in a Florida hotel room in 2007. The death was ruled an accident and the California defendants were not charged with causing her death.
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