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Video: Anna Nicole’s doctor: ‘Chronic pain’ required drugs

  1. Transcript of: Anna Nicole’s doctor: ‘Chronic pain’ required drugs

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: But let's begin with those verdicts in the drug conspiracy case tied to Anna Nicole Smith 's death. NBC 's Lee Cowan has the details. Lee , good morning to you.

    LEE COWAN reporting: Well, good morning, Meredith . As you said, there were three people that were on trial, and none of them were actually accused of killing Anna Nicole Smith . But what prosecutors wanted was for them be -- to be convicted of giving drugs to a known addict. But that was an argument the jury didn't buy. Prosecutors had painted Anna Nicole Smith as the victim, strung out on a cocktail of powerful opiates and sedatives that, in the end, took her life. Her physician, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor -- a close friend, it would seem, from the photos of the two of them together -- was accused of enabling her drug use , funneling the Playboy Playmate almost anything that came in a bottle. But Dr. Kapoor argued his prescriptions had nothing to do with her celebrity and everything to do with her legitimate medical condition , chronic pain and grief over the loss of her son, Daniel . And the jury agreed.

    Dr. SANDEEP KAPOOR (Acquitted in Anna Nicole Smith Drug Case): This is really a victory not just for me to be acquitted of this, but it's a victory for patients everywhere in our nation who suffer chronic pain .

    COWAN: He escaped conviction, but not so for Khristine Eroshevich , Anna Nicole 's next-door neighbor and psychiatrist, and Howard K. Stern , Anna Nicole 's longtime friend and lawyer. While the two were acquitted of the most serious charges, both were found guilty of conspiracy, using fake names to obtain her prescriptions.

    Mr. HOWARD K. STERN: This was done to protect Anna Nicole 's privacy, and it was nothing more than that.

    COWAN: But after two months of testimony and 13 days of deliberations, the jury decided Anna Nicole wasn't an addict, but a patient. Their mixed verdict was a disappointment for those wanting to raise a warning flag over what many see as the overuse of prescribed drugs in Hollywood . But to the judge who nearly lost it back in 2007 deciding what to do with Anna Nicole 's body after her death...

    Judge LARRY SEIDLIN: Custody of the remains of Anna Nicole Smith . Ah.

    COWAN: Larry Seidlin now says Thursday's verdict sends a very clear message.

    Judge SEIDLIN: These people have been convicted of felonies. It's not a running a red light traffic ticket. This is a felony that will have permanent damage on their careers and their future.

    COWAN: Now, all three of them are expected to be sentenced at the beginning of next year. They could face three years in state prison, but the judge does have the option of reducing it from a felony down to a misdemeanor, and many people think he may do just that. Meredith :

    VIEIRA: Lee Cowan , thank you very much . Dr. Sandeep Kapoor is with us exclusively along with his attorney, Ellyn Garofalo . Good morning to both of you.

    Ms. ELLYN GAROFALO: Good morning.

    Dr. KAPOOR: Good morning.

    VIEIRA: Doctor, if I can start with you, can you describe your emotions yesterday when you were acquitted on all six charges?

    Dr. KAPOOR: Just exhilarated, shell-shocked. It's been a long ordeal of almost four years. So just absolute, you know, joy and relief, I suppose, after this ordeal.

    VIEIRA: Yeah. The prosecution tried to make the case that you and your co-defendants conspired to unlawfully provide controlled substances to an addict. So why do you think the jury found you not guilty?

    Dr. KAPOOR: Well, I think the jury had all the evidence to look at, which there was a lot of, and really saw that there was legitimate need and that Anna Nicole Smith suffered from, you know, chronic pain and several other medical conditions and, you know, required treatment. And I think the jury was able to sort through all the papers and the records and see that she indeed was a woman who suffered from several medical conditions .

    VIEIRA: So you were simply doing your duty as her doctor.

    Dr. KAPOOR: Yes. I mean, as a -- as a doctor who takes over a practice of many patients, the good duty would be to take care of all patients in the same manner that you would for anybody in the community.

    VIEIRA: You know, during the case, the trial, the prosecution brought up your relationship with Anna Nicole Smith and whether it was a proper one or not. And they read from your -- from your diary, actually. They showed photos of the two of you first at a gay pride parade in 2005 ; then they read from your personal journal where you wrote that you were -- and these are your words -- "making out with my patient, blurring the lines. Can she ruin me?" They argued that a doctor shouldn't have that kind of a relationship with a patient, and you seem to be suggesting in your journal that you have your own problems with it, you know it's wrong.

    Dr. KAPOOR: Well, you know, that -- that's a page taken out of a personal journal of 800 pages, and that was one -- you know, the one afternoon at a charity event that certainly, you know, was taken out of context, again, and blown out of proportion one time that I did socialize with her. It was hardly a relationship. What it was, was a professional relationship with a patient and a doctor. It just happened to be that she was a public figure and the subject of a lot of tabloid fodder. So that became sort of the jumping off point for all the rest of the circuslike atmosphere around her life.

    VIEIRA: But, Ms. Garofalo , I got to ask you. Although the criminal charges have been dropped against your client, he could still face action by the California medical board. You've looked at the pictures. Did he cross the line? Could he be in trouble here?

    Ms. GAROFALO: Well, certainly there may be an investigation or a further investigation by the medical board. We're hoping that the medical board will look at these verdicts and understand the evidence in the criminal matter and forego any further proceedings with respect to Dr. Kapoor . But, you know, time will tell . We really don't know at this point what steps the medical board will take or not take.

    VIEIRA: And, Dr. Kapoor -- Dr. Kapoor , just summing up, over the past few years you've really had your reputation dragged through the mud. Where do you go to get it back?

    Dr. KAPOOR: Well, I just -- I go to my patients and the good work and the loyalty of my patients in the community of Studio City that I work in. You know, I have still a large practice of patients that are loyal and come to me for their everyday medical problems. I still continue to do the work of pain management in cancer pain and noncancer pain. So certainly, just move forward and continue to -- my local reputation is very good. So I just want to move forward.

Image: Howard K. Stern, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich
AP, Getty Images file
Howard K. Stern, left, was found guilty of giving false names and acting by fraud to obtain prescriptions. Dr. Khristine Eroshevich was found guilty of six charges, including unlawfully prescribing Vicodin by fraud.
updated 10/29/2010 8:25:58 AM ET 2010-10-29T12:25:58

A jury on Thursday convicted Anna Nicole Smith's psychiatrist and boyfriend of conspiring to use false names to obtain prescription drugs for the former Playboy model and reality TV star but acquitted the doctor who prescribed a plethora of drugs for her.

Prosecutors contended during the nine-week trial that the defendants were dazzled by Smith's glamor and filled her demands for prescription drugs to protect their insider status in her personal life and her celebrity world.

The jury was asked to decide if the three defendants were trying to relieve Smith's emotional and physical pain or were feeding her addiction to prescription drugs.

Slideshow: Anna Nicole Smith (on this page)

Smith eventually died of an accidental drug overdose in Florida in 2007, but the defendants were not charged in her death.

Dr. Sandeep Kapoor said he felt "shellshocked and exhilarated" about being acquitted.

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"This is not just a victory for me, but for patients everywhere who suffer chronic pain," an emotional Kapoor said outside the courthouse.

His lawyer Ellyn Garofalo said it also was a victory in some ways for Smith.

"The jury found she was not an addict," Garofalo said.

The only conviction against Smith's boyfriend-lawyer Howard K. Stern was for giving false names and acting by fraud to obtain prescriptions. He was acquitted of seven other charges.

As he left the courthouse, Stern told reporters, "Everything relating to the appropriateness of the medication, I was acquitted of."

He said the lone conviction came for trying to protect Smith's privacy.

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Along with conspiracy, psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich was convicted of unlawfully prescribing Vicodin by fraud. The jury deadlocked on several counts against her.

"I feel relieved," Eroshevich said. "I'm just happy it's over. They did their best."

Her attorney, Brad Brunon, said he would likely move for a new trial and might ask to have the charges against her reduced to misdemeanors.

Stern and Eroshevich remained free pending a Jan. 6 hearing in which the defense can file a motion for a new trial.

If the motion is denied, the judge can sentence both defendants, but it was not immediately clear how much prison time, if any, they could face.

The defendants had been charged with conspiracy, excessive prescribing of opiates and sedatives to an addict, and fraudulently obtaining drugs by using false names.

Smith, Stern inseparable
Stern, 41, had been Smith's lawyer, manager, lover and friend since they met in 2001. Testimony showed they were inseparable, even when she was involved with other men.

In 2006, Smith donned a wedding gown, and she and Stern had a commitment ceremony on a catamaran off the Bahamas. They exchanged rings and vows but were never legally married.

At the heart of the drug case was the question of whether Smith became dependent on opiates and sedatives after being diagnosed and treated for chronic pain syndrome and illnesses including seizures, migraines and spinal pain.

Superior Court Judge Robert Perry told the jury of six women and six men that a doctor who has a good faith belief that a patient is in pain is not guilty of a crime for prescribing controlled substances to relieve suffering.

While presenting their case, prosecutors displayed multiple prescriptions to Smith for heavy painkillers such as Dilaudid, Demarol, Vicodin and Methadone, as well as anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives including Ambien, Xanax, Valium and Chloral Hydrate. In one month, they said, Smith received 1,500 pills.

The judge, however, warned that numbers of pills were not the measure of addiction.

"To violate (the law) a defendant must willfully and knowingly prescribe, administer or dispense a controlled substance to an addict for a non-therapeutic purpose," Perry instructed the jury.

The story of Smith's final years stretched from Los Angeles to the Bahamas with stops along the way in South Carolina and Florida, where her overdose death at the age of 39 was ruled accidental.

Blurring the line between patient and doctor
The two doctors also were close to Smith during her final years, and their lawyers portrayed them as angels of mercy trying to help her before and after she gave birth to her daughter by cesarean then quickly lost her 20-year-old son, Daniel, to a drug overdose.

He died in her hospital room after coming to visit his new half-sister on Sept. 10, 2006. Smith later named the baby Dannielynn in his memory.

Stern initially claimed the baby was his until DNA tests made clear the father was photographer Larry Birkhead, who now has custody of the child.

Defense attorney Steve Sadow, who represents Stern, said Smith was the love of his client's life and he would never harm her. He also stressed that Stern was not a doctor and was relying on medical professionals to do the right thing for Smith.

Stern's name was on a number of prescriptions which prosecutors said were intended for Smith.

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Kapoor, 42, who was Smith's internist, wrote numerous prescriptions for opiates and sedatives during the period he treated her. His lawyer said he followed a drug regimen originated by Smith's previous doctor who sold his practice to Kapoor.

Prosecutors Renee Rose and David Barkhurst argued that Kapoor blurred the line between patient and doctor when he was photographed kissing her at a party. They also pointed to a diary in which Kapoor discussed the "mesmerizing" experience of riding with her in a gay pride parade and wondered: "Can she ruin me?"

Eroshevich, 63, was Smith's neighbor and friend before treating her as a psychiatrist. Prosecutors claimed the friendship was a violation of professional ethics and called a pharmacist who testified the amount of drugs Eroshevich requested for Smith at one point would have amounted to pharmaceutical suicide.

The pharmacist refused to fill the request, and prosecutors showed Eroshevich used other pharmacies to get most of the drugs and took them to Smith in the Bahamas.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Anna Nicole Smith

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  1. Texas teen

    Anna Nicole Smith's photo is seen in a 1985 Mexia (Texas) High School yearbook under the name Nikki Hart. School officials say Smith went by the name Nikki Hart during her brief tenure there. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Short, tragic life

    The cover of the June 1993 Playmate of the Year issue of Playboy magazine featured Anna Nicole Smith. Smith, the pneumatic blonde whose life played out as an extraordinary tabloid tale -- jeans model, Playboy centerfold, widow of an octogenarian billionaire, reality-show subject, tragic mother -- died Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, after collapsing at a Hollywood, Fla., hotel. She was 39. (Playboy) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. She had drive

    Smith holds a Texas license plate that reads "PMOY 93" (Playmate of the Year). (Time & Life Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Happy husband

    Millionaire J. Howard Marshall II made headlines in 1994 when he married Smith. She was 26 and he was 89. He died Aug. 5, 1995, when he was 90. Smith and Marshall's son, E. Pierce Marshall, battled over Marshall's estate. The boy next to Marshall is Smith's late son, Daniel. (Sipa Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Daniel's short life

    Smith and her son Daniel, 13, leave a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on Oct. 27, 1999. His body was found in the Bahamas on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2006. A coroner's report ruled the death was caused by an overdose of anti-depressants and methadone. (Nick Ut / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Fighting for her share

    Smith listens in court in Houston with her attorneys Tom Cunningham and Howard Stern on Monday, Oct. 2, 2000. Sixteen jurors, four of them alternates, were seated to hear the lawsuit where Smith laid claim to a share of the oil fortune of her deceased husband, J. Howard Marshall II. Smith married the Texas oil tycoon in 1994 and he died the following year. Stern later reportedly married Smith and claimed to be the father of Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern. (Steve Ueckert / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Back to work

    Smith is surrounded by members of KISS at the conclusion of the Lane Bryant show featuring plus size fashions in New York on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2002. The legendary rock band gave a live performance throughout the runway show, which kicked off New York Fashion Week. (Robert Mecea / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Activist

    In this handout image from PETA, Smith poses as Marliyn Monroe for a 2004 ad campaign titled, Gentlemen Prefer Fur Free Blondes. PETA's Michael McGraw said in reaction to Smith's death, "She was a great friend to animals and used every opportunity to speak out against senseless cruelty." (PETA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Hot pink

    Smith walks the runway at the Heatherette fashion show during Olympus Fashion Week in New York on Feb. 12, 2004. (Matthew Peyton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Always outrageous

    Smith feigns a "wardrobe malfunction" before announcing Rikku in "Final Fantasy X-2" as the Hottest Character award winner during "G-Phoria -- The Award Show 4 Gamers" in Los Angeles on Aug. 1, 2004. (Jim Ruymen / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Strange behavior

    Smith waves during an appearance backstage during the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia on July 2, 2005. The production company behind the concerts claimed in a lawsuit against Trimspa Inc. that its reputation was damaged by Smith's attire and conduct. Smith, a spokesperson for Trimspa, was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. (Coke Whitworth / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Wowing the Supremes

    Smith and her lawyer Howard K. Stern leave the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 28, 2006. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that Smith could continue her claim for part of her late husband's fortune. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Home sweet home?

    Smith holds her daughter Dannielyn Hope and poses with Stern and "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Mark Steines at the couple's home in the Bahamas on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2006. Businessman and former boyfriend G. Ben Thompson threatened to evict Smith from her Bahamas home, claiming she wasn't making the mortgage payments. (Entertainment Tonight via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. No sign of trouble

    Smith watched a boxing match from near ringside at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2007. She died Feb. 8, 2007. (Hans Deryk / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A mother mourns

    Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, center, and her husband James Arthur, left, embrace as the coffin of Anna Nicole leaves a Bahamas church on March 2, 2007, as the former Playboy model headed to her final resting three weeks after her death. A throng of Bahamians, tourists and media crushed behind police barriers as the pink-laced white coffin was carried into the Mount Horeb Baptist Cathedral in Nassau, Bahamas, for a funeral ceremony closed to all but 300 invited guests.The church was reportedly filled with pink roses, and sources close to the funeral said Smith's body was clad in a gown and tiara. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Laid to rest

    Locals stand before the grave of Smith at the Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Nassau, Bahamas, on March 2, 2007. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 'I told you so!'

    Larry Birkhead rejoices after hearing in a Bahamian court on April 10, 2007, that he has been proven to be the legal father of Smith's baby, Dannielynn. Birkhead later hugged Howard K. Stern, who had been acting as the baby's father. (Christine Aylen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Derby day with daughter

    Birkhead and Dannielynn feed a pony at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, April 28. 2010. Birkhead, a Louisville native, first met Anna Nicole at a 2004 party around the famous horse race. (Charlie Riedel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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