Howard K. Stern is not only back in the courtroom, he's back to proclaiming his innocence.
Stern and Drs. Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor stand accused of six felony counts, including prescribing, administering, and dispensing a controlled substance to an addict.
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Kristi Lousteau will decide on a date for the trio's preliminary hearing on June 8, and already both sides are gearing up for a lengthy battle.
During this morning's arraignment, city prosecutor Renee Rose said that she was anticipating the forthcoming hearing to "easily" last two weeks.
Stern's attorney, Steve Sadow, told press after this morning's hearing that his client will abide by the prosecution's request to submit a writing sample to police, ostensibly to disprove that the former lawyer played any part in providing Smith with prescription drugs.
To no objections, Rose requested this morning that Stern, Eroshevich and Kapoor all submit "handwriting exemplars to law enforcement investigators."
"He isn't a doctor," Sadow said. "He isn't signing prescriptions. He isn't issuing prescriptions. Howard K. Stern didn't commit a criminal act."
It's a defense Stern's legal team has stuck with throughout the investigation, having previously decried the charges as nothing more than "sensational lies, speculation, rumor and gossip."
While the preliminary hearing, as well as any other forthcoming court dates, will no doubt garner more than its share of headlines, Lousteau today signed a protective order to ensure that at least some information pertaining to the case remains private.
Lousteau ordered that a 1,400-page brief relating to the case not be disseminated to the public, as information contained within the document relates to ongoing Smith-related cases in New York and Texas.
Meanwhile, another former Smith ally turned up at court this morning to both "honor her memory" and offer support to Stern.
"Howard may have enabled her, but I don't think he should be guilty of anything," Smith's longtime hairstylist Daniel DiCriscio told E! News. "Anna chose Howard, it wasn't the other way around...You really couldn't tell her what to do."
Not that he offers the same support for the other defendants.
"I do feel the doctors got themselves into this and it's an unfortunate situation."
The trio was each charged with six felony counts on March 12, after an lengthy investigation carried out by the District Attorney's Office, the state Attorney General's Office, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the California Medical Board and the state's Department of Insurance.
Smith's half-sister Amy Hogan told E! News that she is so far pleased with the actions taken by the prosecutors.
"Maybe she will get some justice after all," she said. "That was what we were hoping to hear.
"We didn't have the opportunity that Howard had to get to know her. We would really like to see that guy pay."
If convicted, Stern, Eroshevich and Kapoor each faces a maximum of five years and eight months in state prison.
(Originally published on May 13, 2009, at 9:48 a.m. PT)
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