LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former Playboy model and television star Anna Nicole Smith was given massive amounts of prescription drugs illegally by her boyfriend and two doctors for years before her death from an overdose, California’s attorney general said on Friday.
Attorney General Jerry Brown called Smith a “known addict” to whom lawyer and boyfriend Howard K. Stern, and doctors Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich, conspired to supply thousands of pills before she died in 2007.
The three were charged late Thursday with conspiracy and prescribing controlled substances to Smith starting in 2004, in a first step in what Brown described as a statewide campaign against doctors who provide illegal prescriptions.
“My hope is that the message will go out that doctors do not have a license to pump innocent and often vulnerable people full of dangerous chemicals,” Brown told reporters at a news conference in Los Angeles.
The famously blond and buxom Smith, who was in a legal battle over her late husband’s multimillion-dollar estate, died at age 39 in Hollywood, Florida, on February 8, 2007, of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Her death came 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.
Brown, who plans to run for California governor in 2010 after filling that position from 1975 to 1983, said he expects to bring more prosecutions against doctors who illegally provide drugs to patients in order to counter what he described as a widespread social problem.
The criminal complaint accompanying the charges describes the drugs provided to Smith as Ambien, hydromorphone, Dilaudid, methadone and Xanax, among others.
“These cocktails, methadone and anti-depressants and sleeping pills and Xanax, it explodes,” Brown said.
The complaint also details how drugs were obtained for Smith under other names including an alias for Smith, Michelle Chase, and Stern’s own name.
“This was done knowingly and it was done with tragic consequences,” Brown said. “(Anna Nicole Smith) was a very famous person. But the abuse in this case was serious. Unfortunately, it was not that unusual. It goes on.”
Brown said Eroshevich, Smith’s personal psychiatrist, and Kapoor violated their ethical obligations as physicians, while Stern funneled highly addictive drugs to Smith.
Stern could not immediately be reached for comment.
Authorities launched the investigation into Smith’s death in March 2007 and conducted dozens of interviews with witnesses and a review of more than 100,000 computer images and text, including patient profiles and pharmacy logs.
Brown said each of the charges in the case carry a maximum prison sentence of three years. The three individuals are each charged with six counts.
Kapoor and Stern reported to police late on Thursday and were then released after both posted $20,000 bail. Eroshevich is expected to turn herself in Monday.
Smith’s death prompted a legal battle over the paternity of her baby daughter. Stern said he was the girl’s father, but DNA tests showed photographer Larry Birkhead was the biological father and was given custody of the girl.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Eric Walsh
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