This morning the late Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend, counsel and, according to California Attorney General Brown, her "enabler," Howard K. Stern was arraigned in Department 30 of the Criminal Courts Building. The huge courtroom is a portal to the 1980s, with strict enforcement against media use of cell phones and laptops -- and live blogging. Stern was joined by doctors Khristine
Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor. Among other counts, the three are accused of furnishing prescription drugs to an addict, a noble-sounding law that would, if rigorously enforced, cram half the city between Department 30's fake-wood paneling.
Happier Days: Stern pushing Smith in wheelchair at a 2003 West Hollywood event. Photo: Steven Mikulan
This May has proved to be low season in the Permanent Trial, Los Angeles' civic theater of celebrity pillorying that requires there be, at any given moment, at least one glamour trial in the air. With the B-list Phil Spector and Anthony Pellicano trials now in the vault, that pretty much leaves the case against the non-celebrities once associated with Anna Nicole Smith, the troubled model and actress, who overdosed in 2007 on a combination of prescription-drugs.
At 9:40 a.m., after a 70-minute wait, the three defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. They did not do so themselves, but remained mute as their pleas were ventriloquized through attorneys. These were: Steven Sadow, J. Christopher Smith and M. Krista Barth for Stern; Adam Braun for Eroshevich and Elly Garofalo for Kapoor. Stern, attired in a graphite suit with chalk stripes and a striped blue tie, seemed jovial, if a little hollow-eyed. Eroshevich was confident-appearing enough to pass for one of the lawyers, while Kapoor seemed lost in rumination.
In a possible sign of how long and contentious this trial may become,
the defense lawyers and prosecutor Renee Rose had to leave the
courtroom to hammer out the next date they could all assemble for the
first in a series of preliminary hearings that are expected to last at
least two weeks. When they returned they announced to Commissioner
Kristi Lousteau they'd settled on June 8.
Moments later the defense entourage was leaving the building by a
special exit, avoiding the public elevators. Soon thereafter, in an
outdoor news conference, Stern's Atlanta lawyer, Steven Sadow, set a
combative tone with the media that doesn't bode well.
"Howard's not going to answer your questions," Sadow barked, "so save your breath."
This, of course, was an open invitation and immediately reporters began
calling out to Stern, who stood next to Sadow, "Howard, why can't you
speak for yourself?" and "Why did you stand by and let it happen to
An increasingly irate Sadow began snapping at individual reporters
while laying out his demurrer filing, which is based on the grounds
that all the counts charging Stern with keeping Smith on a diet of illegally prescribed drugs apply to doctors and health-care
providers -- not boyfriends. And anyway, Sadow continued, his client "did not commit a criminal act under any circumstances." Sadow also took a couple of swings at
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California Attorney General Brown's high-profile involvement in the case, calling Brown "the attorney general
who wants to be governor."
Moments later Stern was sliding into a black, chauffeured Lincoln Town Car.
As some bystanders watched him drive away, one man on the sidewalk muttered, "Money, money, money."