Howard K. Stern had a good day in court.
A Los Angeles judge dismissed two conspiracy felony charges against Stern, 42, on Thursday, ruling there was no evidence he intended fraud or deception when he got drugs for his former client and lover Anna Nicole Smith under fake names.
L.A. County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry also dismissed the two conspiracy charges against Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, 63, a psychiatrist who was Smith's neighbor, and rejected a charge against her of unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance. He also reduced a fraud charge to a misdemeanor and sentenced Eroshevich to a year of probation.
Eroshevich wept at the news and Stern smiled broadly.
Outside court, Stern said that he was thinking about Anna Nicole Smith and her legacy after the judge's decision.
"I was looking in the sky, thinking she was being vindicated," said Stern, his voice cracking with emotion. He said the prosecution wrongly tried to represent Smith as a weak-willed drug addict who was being overwhelmed by improperly and unnecessarily prescribed medications.
"She was an incredibly strong person and smart – nobody could take advantage of Anna," he said, explaining that after her son Daniel died, "she was in terrible pain."
In a statement after the decision, the L.A. District Attorney's office said, in part: "Judge Perry’s ruling today is totally inconsistent with his previous rulings at the preliminary hearing, the trial itself and once again when the defense concluded their case. Each time, he refused to dismiss the conspiracy counts. The evidence has not changed from that time to now."
The statement added, "His decision denigrates the substantial investigative efforts conducted by the state Department of Justice and the Medical Board. It diminishes the huge social problem of prescription drug abuse facilitated by irresponsible caretakers and unscrupulous medical professionals. ... We will immediately pursue all appellate remedies to overturn Judge Perry’s decision."
Reason to Protect Smith
Judge Perry said he was rejecting the conspiracy charges because the prosecution failed to prove that Stern was aware it was a crime to get a prescription for a celebrity under a fake name. (In this case, he used the moniker Michelle Chase.)
He also added Stern had good reason to want to protect Smith against the possibility that the media might find out she was on methadone and other dangerous medications.
"There was no evidence that Howard K. Stern lacked a good faith belief that what he was doing could be against the law," said Perry, who also found that Smith was not an addict, which was one of the key component's of the prosecution's theory.