The boyfriend of Anna Nicole Smith was found guilty of helping to funnel prescription medications to the former Playboy Playmate. The jury convicted Howard K. Stern, 41, on two counts of conspiracy. He was acquitted on seven other charges.
After almost 60-hours of deliberation, the jury announced its verdict today.
The defendants, longtime boyfriend-lawyer Howard K. Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Khristine Eroshevich, had pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, excessive prescribing of opiates and sedatives to an addict, and fraudulently obtaining drugs by using false names. They were accused of illegally providing drugs to Smith during her downward spiral preceding her death at age 39.
Psychiatrist Khristine Eroshevich was also convicted by the 12 person jury, of four criminal counts, including two conspiracy charges.
It took the six-man, six-woman jury thirteen days of deliberating before they had finally reached a verdict.
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, according to MSNBC.
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
Stern, Kapoor and Eroshevic were not charged with Smith's Feb. 8, 2007, accidental drug overdose death in Hollywood Florida.
Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, was acquitted of all charges against him. Kapoor said he felt "shell-shocked and exhilarated" about being acquitted.
"This is not just a victory for me, but for patients everywhere who suffer chronic pain," an emotional Kapoor said to the media outside the courthouse.
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, according to reports from The News Tribune.
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, reported The News Tribune.