After weeks of disturbing testimony unveiled during a preliminary hearing on the prescription drug overdose death at age 39 (February 2007) of platinum blonde Playboy Playmate star Anna Nicole Smith, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry has ruled that Howard K. Stern, her boyfriend, and her two physicians Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Dr. Khristine Eroshevich will stand trial for the death of Anna Nicole Smith.
(Image of Anna Nicole Smith - 32nd Annual American Music Awards - Pressroom 11-14-2004 - DailyCeleb.com - All Rights Reserved).
The three defendants will be facing a total of 23 total felonies. The court case against them is due to start December 11, 2009.
The case has continued to brew for more than 2 1/2 years since Anna Nicole was found dead as the result of an overdose of powerful prescription drugs in a Florida hotel room. It has been questioned since her death whether Anna Nicole obtained the powerful prescription drugs illegally from the two physicians named in the new court case.
Judge Robert J. Perry made a ruling after a 13-day preliminary hearing that outlined the final tragic years of Anna Nicole's life through detailed testimony of witnesses, including a former lover and a bodyguard, and in hundreds of pages of records from pharmacies, doctors' offices and hospitals.
Judge Perry said the witness accounts and medical files persuaded him that Anna Nicole was a drug addict. He also ruled there was "an ongoing and widespread effort" to obtain medication for her. The judge noted, however, that the standard of proof prosecutors had to demonstrate at the hearing was "very minimal" and far below that required for a trial conviction.
"I do find the people have met the test of convincing this court that there is strong suspicion the defendants committed the acts," Perry said.
The trial for the three defendants (Howard K. Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Dr. Khristine Eroshevich) will probably begin in early 2010. Experts estimate the trial will last two to three months. If found guilty, Anna Nicole's boyfriend and two doctors face prison sentences if convicted of conspiracy. There are other potential sentences tied to any other felonies.
Dr. Kapoor was Anna Nicole's primary physician until approximately five months before her untimely death. Dr. Eroshevich, is a psychiatrist and close friend of Anna's who allegedly provided sedatives blamed in the model's fatal overdose.
Dr. Kapoor and Dr. Eroshevich are charged with prescribing controlled substances to an addict, writing opiate prescriptions in a false name and obtaining opiates by fraud. Mr. Stern, Anna's longtime companion and attorney, is charged with illegal prescribing under the theory that he aided and abetted the physicians.
All three have pleaded not guilty and are expected to repeat those pleas at a Dec. 11 arraignment in Los Angeles.
Many believe Howard K. Stern is the central character in the drug overdose death of Anna Nicole since he was known to pick up her illegal prescriptions, put them under his name and other actions which helped keep Anna Nicole heavily medicated and addicted to a wide range of drugs.
Anna Nicole's long time bodyguard Maurice Brighthaupt as well as Larry Birkhead, the father of her young daughter, told the judge they believed the Playboy Playmate was addicted to a wide range of prescription drugs including opiates and sedatives. Some of the drugs believed to be in Anna Nicole's list of favorites included Valium, methadone, Xanax, the anti-seizure medication Topamax, the muscle relaxant Soma, the sedative chloral hydrate and Dilaudid, a painkiller with is called "hospital heroin."
Allegedly Stern refused to take Anna Nicole to rehab telling people around her "it would kill her" It was also reported that while Anna Nicole was being weaned off methodone at a rehab hospital Stern would sneak in extra doses for her.
Psychiatrist Dr. Nathalie Maullin testified that Anna Nicole Smith walked away from drug treatment when she was 15 weeks pregnant in 2006. Anna Nicole left Cedars-Sinai Medical Center while pregnant with her daughter, where she was being treated for methadone and Xanax addiction. Ten months later she died from an overdose.
The media expects lots of new information to become revealed about the last days of Anna Nicole's life during the process of the case where witnesses will be called to give testimony.
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