and Paul Elias
LOS ANGELES &
Eight months and 2,300 miles away from where Anna Nicole Smith died of an overdose, California authorities on Friday raided homes and offices of the doctors who prescribed drugs to the former Playboy Playmate.
California Department of Justice agents raided the office of Smith's psychiatrist, Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, and the home and office of Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, who prescribed the painkiller methadone to Smith shortly before her death.
In all, six locations were raided, said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Authorities did not name the doctors but their attorneys confirmed the searches.
Smith died of an accidental drug overdose in February at a Florida hotel. She was 39.
The department began investigating in March because "dangerous drugs ... were part of the death of Anna Nicole Smith, and I learned that these were California doctors and California prescriptions," Attorney General Jerry Brown said at a news conference.
Brown declined to speculate on what charges the doctors might face if it was determined they improperly prescribed drugs, but indicated they might be serious. Noting the ongoing Medical Board investigation, Brown said there could be violations of the medical practice code.
"You don't go to a judge and get a search warrant for somebody's home unless you think some rather serious crime has been committed," Brown said.
A call to Eroshevich's attorney, Gary Lincenberg, was not immediately returned. However, he told KNBC-TV that the investigation only concerned whether prescriptions to Smith were proper.
"This has nothing to do with whether or not Dr. Eroshevich in any way contributed to Anna Nicole Smith's death," he said.
Ellyn Garafalo, a lawyer for Kapoor, confirmed the doctor's home and offices were searched but declined to comment further.
Howard K. Stern, Smith's attorney and companion, reportedly was at Eroshevich's Studio City home when investigators arrived. The psychiatrist had been watching Stern's dogs while he was away in New York, and he arrived back early Friday, Stern's attorney Lin Wood told CelebTV.com.
"He is not involved in anything that is being investigated and it has nothing to do with him," said James T. Neavitt, another Stern attorney.
The Medical Board of California also is investigating both Kapoor and Eroshevich. According to documents, Eroshevich authorized all 11 prescription medications found in Smith's hotel room the day she died. Eroshevich had traveled with Smith to Florida.
More than 600 pills, including 450 muscle relaxants, were missing from prescriptions that were no more than five weeks old, according to the documents obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.
Brown said he did not know if the criminal probe could lead to exhumation of Smith's body, which is buried in the Bahamas. He said investigators have learned "quite a lot" from Bahamian authorities but he declined to be specific on grounds that it might jeopardize the investigation.
Asked if the probe would expand to include Smith's son, Daniel, who died of a drug overdose in the Bahamas less than five months before his mother, Brown replied: "We're not setting any limits on this investigation."
Agents have so far reviewed over 100,000 computer images and files, analyzed patient profiles and pharmacy logs and interviewed witnesses throughout the country and abroad, Brown said.
University of Southern California law professor Jody Armour said potential charges could include manslaughter if it is determined that a physician "exposed others to harm recklessly," and even murder if the action was so reckless it constituted malice.
A claim of criminal homicide could be brought by arguing a physician generated excessive risks, he said, by "prescribing this substance without proper supervision or without diagnosis or without a proper foundation of some kind."
Such claims are unusual in the case of physicians because society generally wants them to have wide discretion on treatment, Armour said.
However, several doctors have gone to prison because they prescribed painkillers for patients who died.
In Florida, Dr. Freddie J. Williams got a federal life sentence in 2004 for prescribing oxycodone that led to two deaths, and Dr. James Graves was sentenced to 63 years in state prison for four manslaughter counts in 2002 linked to his prescriptions.
The current investigation could lead to state charges either in California or Florida, or federal charges if the government decides it wants to send a signal that overprescribing drugs won't be tolerated, Armour said.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said in a statement that his office will file charges "as appropriate," after evaluating results of the search warrants.
Search warrants served on Anna Nicole Smith's doctors
and Paul Elias