US & Canada

Judge throws out Anna Nicole Smith aides' drug verdicts

Anna Nicole Smith, shown in 2006 in Washington
Image caption The judge said Smith, shown in 2006, was not an addict under anti-drug laws

A judge has dismissed drug conspiracy charges against the boyfriend and psychiatrist of Anna Nicole Smith.

A jury in October found Howard Stern and Dr Khristine Eroshevich guilty of conspiring to obtain prescription drugs for the former Playboy model by fraud.

Los Angeles judge Robert Perry ruled at a sentencing hearing he did not believe she was an addict under anti-drug laws.

Smith died in 2007 at 39 from a prescription drug overdose. The pair were not charged in her death.

"The court has no doubt that abuse of prescription medications is a troubling problem for many persons," Judge Perry said in his ruling.

"There is no doubt that there are doctors who are nothing more than pill pushers and should be prosecuted and imprisoned. This case did not involve such doctors."

He found that a 2006 California anti-drug law intended to curb prescription medication abuse recognised that "pseudo-addicts" seek drugs because they are in great pain.

He also found that although Mr Stern had used his own name and others to obtain painkillers for Smith, he did so to protect her privacy.

Dr Eroshevich had also been convicted of obtaining Vicodin by fraud in October, but Judge Perry reduced that conviction to a misdemeanour.

Los Angeles prosecutor Steve Cooley said he would appeal against Judge Perry's dismissals of the convictions.

"His decision denigrates the substantial investigative efforts conducted by the state Department of Justice and the medical board," Mr Cooley said in a statement.

"It diminishes the huge social problem of prescription drug abuse facilitated by irresponsible caretakers and unscrupulous medical professionals."

Smith's former doctor, Dr Sandeep Kapoor, was acquitted of all charges against him in October.

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