Anna Nicole Smith's lawyer-turned-boyfriend and two doctors pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges they conspired to provide thousands of prescription pills to the former model before her overdose death two years ago.
The appearance of Howard K. Stern and doctors Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor in the 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 are 1400 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 attorneys said that about a quarter of the material has already been made public.
The hearing was brief and Smith's name was never mentioned.
Stern, Eroshevich and Kapoor stood before Lousteau with their lawyers. The defendants said "yes" when she 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.
Stern's lawyer, Steve Sadow, said he wanted the preliminary hearing to begin as soon as possible. The commissioner granted a motion requiring each defendant to provide a handwriting sample and she transferred the case to a judge for the next hearing.
Outside court, Stern's lawyer was outspoken, exclaiming: "He did not commit a crime, period!"
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."
Kapoor's lawyer, Ellyn Garafalo, said he continues to practice medicine and his patients have been supportive.
"We have no doubt Dr Kapoor will be exonerated," she said.
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 allege Stern was the principal enabler in a conspiracy to provide Smith thousands of prescription pills. The defendants each face six counts including conspiracy, and up to five years, eight months in prison if convicted.