The California attorney general said today that Anna Nicole Smith's one-time boyfriend was the "principal enabler" in an alleged conspiracy to supply the former model with thousands of prescription drugs between 2004 and her 2007 fatal overdose.
Howard K. Stern, Smith's lawyer and longtime companion, and Sandeep Kapoor, one of the star's doctors, surrendered Thursday to charges including conspiracy to unlawfully prescribe a controlled substance and to prescribe, administer or dispense a controlled substance to an addict.
They were released on $20,000 bail last night. A second doctor, Khristine Eroshevich, is expected to surrender to authorities Monday. All three are scheduled to be arraigned in May.
"What we have in this case is a conspiracy among three individuals," California Attorney General Jerry Brown said at a news conference Friday. "Howard K. Stern is the principal enabler. 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.
"This was done knowingly and with tragic consequences," he said.
Prosecutors claim the doctors gave the pills, including opiates, sedatives and muscle relaxants, to Stern, who then allegedly provided them to Smith.
Smith Died of Accidental Drug Overdose
Smith died Feb. 8, 2007, at the age of 39 after she was found unconscious in her room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Florida. A medical examiner ruled that the reality TV star had died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
The Florida medical examiner investigating the death said he found 11 different prescription medications in Smith's hotel room, many of them in Stern's name, all of them prescribed within five weeks of her death. The drugs included Valium and other anti-anxiety medication, anti-seizure pills and muscle relaxants.
More than 600 pills -- about 450 of them muscle relaxants -- were missing, according to information obtained by The Associated Press. Dr. Joshua Perper, Broward County chief medical examiner, said at the time that chloral hydrate, a sleeping medication, was the drug which "tipped the balance" and most directly led to Smith's demise.
He added that three prescription drugs used for treatment of anxiety and depression likely contributed to the intoxication that led to her death. These were clonapine (commonly known as Clonazepam or Klonopin), diazepam (commonly known as Valium) and lorazepam (commonly known as Atavan).
The defendants could not be immediately reached for comment. Eroshevich' attorney, Adam Braun, said in a statement, "Anna was the center of a cruel tabloid feeding frenzy. In the face of this, Dr. Eroshevich did her best to help the patient while protecting what little privacy Anna had left. Any actions were done with the patient's well-being in mind and were certainly not criminal."
Braun told the Associated Press that his client wrote some of the prescriptions using fictitious names for Smith, but said it wasn't intended to commit fraud.
Lawyer: Prescriptions Written for Privacy Reasons
Stern has repeatedly denied involvement in Smith's death or the death of her son Daniel, who died in September 2006 at age 20 of an accidental drug overdose, three days after his mother gave birth to a daughter.
"Nothing could have been further from the truth. I would give my life for either one of them. I'd trade places right now," Stern told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren last year.
In a 2007 interview with CNN's Larry King, Stern said that some prescriptions for Smith were put in his name in order to protect Smith's privacy. "But they were through doctors trying to look out for her health," he said.
Brown said there was "clear evidence" that Smith was addicted to drugs. He did not say what the motive may have been for the alleged crimes, but said, "These people were caught up in being in a relationship and being around this celebrity, Anna Nicole Smith."
"There's a certain psychic gain to be a part of the glitz and celebrity and power. There's a lot of money floating around. A lot of high life," he said.
Speculation swirled around Stern as the last years of Smith's tumultuous life played out in public. Smith's mother, from whom she had been estranged, publicly accused Stern of being involved in her daughter's death, which he has denied.
Stern also claimed to be the father of Smith's daughter, Dannielynn, sparking a protracted paternity dispute. Stern dropped his claim after a DNA test revealed that Smith's former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, was the father.
Smith was buried in the Bahamas next to the grave of her son.