“My hope is that the message goes out that doctors do not have a license to pump innocent and often vulnerable people full of dangerous chemicals.”

Photo: Steven Mikulan

This was Jerry Brown at Friday morning's news conference that had been called to answer questions about the indictment of three people charged with supplying illegal prescription drugs to Anna Nicole Smith, who died from an overdose of them in 2007. The 70-year-old Attorney General was looking fit and sounded aggressive, as he usually does at the podium, inside L.A.'s Ronald Reagan State Office Building.

But he also rambled in a way that might not have been too obvious because he spoke quickly and without much punctuation, as though in run-on, stream-of-consciousness sentences.

“Certainly there's a certain psychic gain here, part of the glitz and celebrity and power. There's a lot of money floating around. There's a lot of the high life.”

Brown said these words in reply to a reporter's question about the

motivation of Smith's “friends” — the lawyer Howard K. Stern and

doctors Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich — who stand accused of

keeping the actress on a rigorous diet of pills and opiates that parked

her in a mental haze until she died. But Brown might well have been

describing another kind of addiction — a need for some elected

officials to stay connected to the political power grid. He'd said

about as much to a group of editors and writers at the L.A. Weekly

during a 2006 interview, when he was campaigning for A.G. Running for

office he told us then, with beguiling candor, was what guys like him


It's all but certain Brown will run for California governor in 2010,

an office he's already held for two terms. Was Brown's prosecution of

the gang of three allegedly responsible, however peripherally, for

Smith's death, part of a pre-campaign strategy? In 2006 this newspaper

had endorsed him with this bouquet of praise, believing he wouldn't run

for governor again:

“Unlike other candidates seeking the job, Brown wouldn't be tempted

to weigh his every move as attorney general on whether it could provide

a springboard into the Governor's Office. Let's remember, he already

was the governor.”

Today, downtown, none of us asked Brown about a possible connection

to the prosecution and his political ambitions. The most we enquired,

politely, was whether his “office” would be involved in some similar

case if it involved an unknown addict. Perhaps reporters were thinking

of the huge open-air drug bazaar that was thriving only a few blocks

away on Skid Row. Or maybe some of us had heard, driving over here,

Jeffrey Toobin say on the radio that despite the District Attorney's

11-count indictment, the three defendants would probably at most get a

year in prison, with the doctors losing their medical licenses.

“This office has gone after dozens of doctors for abusing the law in

ways that we're talking about today in respect to Anna Nicole Smith,”

Brown said. “She was a very famous person but the abuse in this case is

serious. Unfortunately it's not that unusual. It goes on. And it goes

on in a way that I personally feel very strongly committed to putting a

stop to.” By now Brown was racing through his lines in that hoarse,

Robert Duvall delivery he has. The words spilled down from the podium

and Brown would leave it up to us to later add shape to them with

commas and periods.

“Is it self-indulgence, is it some power trip is it just getting

some contact high off a celebrity? That remains to be seen,” Brown

continued. “The law's been violated, there's a conspiracy, someone's

died here. And this is bad business. And I'm very concerned that this

indulgence by society, not just in this case but generally speaking

people think drug dealers on the street corner are the only threat —

as a matter of fact, people in white smocks and pharmacies and with

their medical degrees are a growing threat and we mean to curtail it in

the best way that we can.”

People in white smocks. With their medical degrees. Was I the only

one in the room who thought the Attorney General himself was on

something? It sounded less like an anti-crime crusade than Stalin's

invention of the Doctor's Plot.

“This is serious stuff,” Brown said. “There is a general tolerance

and indulgence of drugs. Everyone knows a doctor, many people take

sleeping pills and then they take another pill, we have drug

advertising. The American people are being propagandized to be more

tolerant of drugs. . . . I personally think this is damn serious and I

hope these courts take it more seriously perhaps than they have in the

past and this is only one in a series of efforts to crack down on

doctors. We've already gone after a hundred other doctors and we'll be

stepping up the prosecution in the months ahead.”

Brown's press conference was over in 17 minutes. Not one of the

representatives from the D.A.'s office or Drug Enforcement

Administration present took over the podium – how could you follow an

act like that? Instead, reporters cornered the reps individually as

more than a dozen camera crews struck their equipment.

I thought of an afternoon years ago, when I had briefly interviewed

Anna Nicole Smith. It was at the Abbey club in West Hollywood, which

had proclaimed that date Anna Nicole Smith Day. Smith was there during

an audition to choose a drag queen dressed as herself, who would appear

in a straight-to-video film. She was in one of her fat-and-high phases,

and because of a roller-skating accident had to be hoisted out of her

limo and into a wheelchair.

I was told I couldn't use a tape recorder, and when Smith answered

my questions she stared off and spoke in a far-away voice that sounded

like it came from someone not merely stoned but also out on a ledge. It

was as though merely saying the wrong word could send tumbling off it

and into a deep void. That happened two years ago, but the circus that

surrounded her is still in business.

LA Weekly