Anna Nicole Smith’s lawyer-turned-boyfriend and two doctors denied have conspiring to provide thousands of prescription pills to the former model before her overdose death two years ago.
The appearance of Howard Stern and doctors Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor in Los Angeles Superior Court set the stage for a preliminary hearing that all parties said could last at least two weeks.
Deputy District Attorney Renee Rose said there were 1,400 pages of discovery in the case, which was investigated for two years before charges were filed.
Court Commissioner Kristi Lousteau ordered documents in the case sealed, although lawyers said that about a quarter of the material had already been made public.
The hearing was brief and Ms Smith’s name was never mentioned.
Stern, Eroshevich and Kapoor said “yes” when Ms Lousteau asked if they were pleading not guilty and when they agreed to delay the matter until June 8 for setting of the preliminary hearing date. They declined to comment outside court.
But Stern’s lawyer, Steve Sadow, was more vocal, exclaiming: “He did not commit a crime, period.”
The commissioner granted a motion requiring each defendant to provide a handwriting sample and transferred the case to a judge for the next hearing.
The prosecutor’s motion asked for the handwriting samples in order to authenticate Kapoor’s medical records on Ms Smith and also to show that prescriptions written for Ms Smith were picked up at pharmacies by Eroshevich, Stern or others designated by them who signed logs at the pharmacies. Sometimes, Ms Rose said, they used Ms Smith’s credit card.
Mr Sadow said he had filed a demurrer, a legal document contending that the law under which Stern is charged does not apply to him.
“The statute deals with medical practitioners,” he said. “He is not a doctor.”
Mr Sadow said he was not disputing the authenticity of Stern’s signature on any documents signed by him.
Kapoor’s lawyer, Ellyn Garafalo, said he continued to practice medicine and his patients had been supportive.
“We have no doubt Dr Kapoor will be exonerated,” she said.
Ms Smith, 39, was declared dead at a hospital after being found unconscious in her Florida hotel room in 2007. A medical examiner determined she died of an accidental overdose of a sleeping medication and at least eight other prescription drugs.
Prosecutors say Stern was the prime mover in a conspiracy to provide Ms Smith with thousands of prescription pills.
The defendants each face six counts including conspiracy, and up to five years, eight months in prison if convicted.