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Judge hints felonies may be dropped in Anna Nicole Smith drug trial

By Alan Duke, CNN
Howard K. Stern and Anna Nicole Smith's doctors are accused of supplying prescription drugs to an addict.
Howard K. Stern and Anna Nicole Smith's doctors are accused of supplying prescription drugs to an addict.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Judge suggests most allegations should be low-level misdeanors
  • Prosecution paid $24,386 in travel expenses for nannies to testify
  • Closing arguments are set to start Thursday
  • Jury deliberations will start next week, the judge says
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Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- The judge in the drug trial of Anna Nicole Smith's boyfriend-lawyer Howard K. Stern and two doctors suggested Monday that most of the charges may be reduced to low-level misdemeanors before the jury begins deliberations next week.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry criticized the prosecution's case against the doctors, suggesting it built a case from "a dead celebrity and a bunch of low-level misdemeanors."

Stern and Drs. Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor are on trial for allegedly conspiring to feed her drug addiction and using false names to obtain the drugs.

They are not charged in her February 2007 death, which a Florida medical examiner ruled was from an accidental overdose of a sleep aid, a lethal mix of prescription drugs and a viral flu.

Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases Monday morning, setting the stage for Judge Perry to consider motions to dismiss or reduce the charges during a Monday afternoon session.

"It has all the hallmarks of a kitchen sink prosecution," Judge Perry said. "It looks like the prosecution is throwing everything in with the hope that something will survive."

Prosecutions presented evidence of 388 prescriptions for painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs written by the doctors for Smith between June 2004 and January 2007, Perry said. Only 15 percent of the drug prescriptions in question involved controlled substances covered by California law as potential felony violations, he said.

"What concerns me, it seems the prosecution is saying 'Look at all the drugs she took, these people are guilty and she died,'" Perry said to the prosecutors. "Is that the subliminal message?"

After the judge suggested that most of allegations were just misdemeanors, defense lawyer Steve Sadow said those should be dismissed because the one-year statute of limitations on misdemeanors ran out before charges were brought.

"My God, I didn't even think about that," Perry said.

Closing arguments were scheduled to begin Thursday morning with jury deliberations expected to start next Tuesday or Wednesday, Perry said.

The defense does not deny Smith took a lot of drugs, but they contend the doctors were treating her for chronic pain that other doctors had also diagnosed.

"If she's being treated for pain, it's not illegal," Judge Perry said two weeks ago.

Judge Perry has suggested several times in recent weeks that the prosecution had fallen short in proving the core of its case, including that Smith was a drug addict.

The last evidence introduced in the trial was a list of expenses the prosecution paid to bring two former nannies to Los Angeles from the Bahamas to testify.

The testimony, part of which was thrown out after the judged ruled it was unreliable, cost Los Angeles County taxpayers $24,386, according to an itemized list provided by the prosecutor.

The total did not include the cost of two full-time law enforcement officers working three shifts a day for 11 days to escort the nannies and their seven relatives during their trip.

The prosecution also agreed to pay two months rent, utilities and relocation expenses for each nanny to move into a new home once they returned to the Bahamas. The total cost of that has not yet been disclosed.