A prosecutor who was accused of trying to intimidate one of the star witnesses in the Anna Nicole Smith drug case was absent from the courtroom Monday afternoon, and the district attorney’s office said her further role in the case was under discussion.
Larry Birkhead, father of the celebrity model’s daughter, disclosed from the witness stand that Sarah Slice, the young prosecutor who had been escorting him to and from court, had given him advice about his testimony and warned that his daughter might have problems in later life because of her late mother’s drug use.
“I felt I personally did my best and I was being chastised,” he said under questioning by defense attorney Ellyn Garofalo.
Birkhead said Slice told him prosecutors were “frustrated” because he appeared to be taking the side of Howard K. Stern in the preliminary hearing which will decide whether Stern and two doctors stand trial.
Stern — Smith’s former boyfriend — and two doctors are charged with conspiracy to illegally give controlled substances to the former Playboy Playmate, who died of an accidental overdose in 2007.
Birkhead, who ended his two-day stay on the witness stand, said he felt he was being pressured by Slice to “ramp up” his testimony against the defendants.
He said the prosecutor’s remarks — followed by a text message after he got home — made him upset, but the judge permitted him to continue his testimony when he said the exchange would not affect his account. He said he was being truthful.
When court resumed after lunch, Slice was absent. At the end of the day, an employee of the district attorney’s office collected Slice’s briefcase from under the counsel table.
Asked if Slice had been removed from the prosecution team, district attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said, “The matter is being discussed, and no decision has been made as to her further role in this case.”
A state bar database shows that Slice was admitted to the bar last February.
In subsequent examination by the head of the prosecution team, Renee Rose, Birkhead acknowledged that shortly after Smith gave birth to their daughter, he filed a paternity suit and included a declaration asking that the child be tested for drugs because of Smith’s prescription drug usage. Birkhead also said he felt Smith was grief-stricken at the time because of the death of her son, Daniel, and might not be capable of caring for the baby.
Birkhead earlier said Smith took more drugs than he had ever seen anyone take. But he also said she suffered from a wide array of ailments.
‘I felt the district attorney was frustrated’
Birkhead said Slice talked about his daughter after he testified Friday and suggested he was taking Stern’s side in the case.
“I felt the district attorney was frustrated,” Birkhead said under questioning by Garofalo, who represents Dr. Sandeep Kapoor. “She said I should bite my tongue. She then went into a long speech about my daughter, and how there was going to be something wrong with her.
“She said my daughter is going to be frustrated in learning and I should find something she excels in. She said she had studied the way the brain was made up.”
Birkhead said that after he left court, Slice text-messaged him, suggesting he should read to his daughter to help her development. Birkhead said he had not noticed any signs of physical or mental disability in 3-year-old Dannielynn Hope.
Garofalo asked Birkhead how he felt about the prosecutor’s remarks.
“I didn’t banter about it because I felt she had crossed the line about my daughter’s health,” Birkhead said. “It upset me.”
Asked by Superior Court Judge Robert Perry if he took this as a negative comment on his testimony, Birkhead replied that he did.
On Monday, as the same prosecutor was escorting him up in the elevator before the hearing resumed, “it was suggested to me it appeared I was taking up for Mr. Stern and Anna couldn’t speak for herself,” Birkhead said.
Rose later got Birkhead to describe media deals he made after Smith’s death. He said he was paid a total of more than $2 million for interviews.
The next witness, Dr. Nathalie Maullin, a psychiatrist who treated Smith at Cedars Sinai Medical Center while she was pregnant, described her as a difficult patient who was obviously going through withdrawal from multiple medications when she was admitted.
“When I asked her what she had been taking, she blew me off,” said Maullin, who recalled that Smith referred all questions to Stern, who was in the hospital room with her.
She said she telephoned Kapoor, and he gave her a long list of drugs he had tried on Smith including Dilaudid, which she said surprised her because it is a powerful drug used in cancer patients and has addictive potential. She said Kapoor also said Smith had problems with alcohol.
Among the allegations against the defendants are dispensing controlled substances to an addict and dispensing them by fraud by using false names.