Anna Nicole boyfriend pleads not guilty in drug case

Wed May 13, 2009 3:56pm EDT
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By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Anna Nicole Smith's former boyfriend and two of her doctors pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges they illegally supplied the Playboy model with prescription drugs for years before she died from an accidental overdose.

Howard K. Stern, who was also Smith's lawyer, her psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich and Dr Sandeep Kapoor entered not guilty pleas during a brief appearance in Los Angeles Superior Court.

They were ordered to return to court on June 8, when a judge is expected to set the date for a preliminary hearing to determine whether they should stand trial. If convicted, they could face more than 5 years in prison.

Stern, 40, and the doctors are charged with conspiracy and prescribing painkillers, sleeping pills, anxiety medicines and other drugs to Smith between 2004 and her death from an overdose of prescription drugs in Florida on February 8, 2007.

Smith, who was 39 when she died, is best known as a Playboy Playmate and Guess jeans model, but she first gained famed by marrying 89-year-old billionaire oil tycoon Howard Marshall when she was 26.

Stern and the two doctors are accused of obtaining the pills for Smith by using false names, but their lawyers say they were merely carrying out Smith's wishes and that the drugs were prescribed for legitimate medical reasons.

"What I said, and I'll say it every time I'm here, is Howard K. Stern didn't commit a criminal act, period, under any set of circumstances," Stern's defense lawyer Steve Sadow told reporters after the hearing.

Smith, who emulated Marilyn Monroe with her buxom blond looks, died shortly after the birth of her daughter and the death of her 20-year-old son, who also died of an overdose from prescription drugs and methadone.

(Editing by Helen Popper)

<p>Howard K. Stern, long-time attorney and partner of late celebrity Anna Nicole Smith, stands in the courtroom during his arraignment at the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts building in Los Angeles, California, May 13, 2009. REUTERS/Spencer Weiner/Pool</p>