Howard K. Stern is back in limbo.
Anna Nicole Smith's onetime companion and attorney could end up being sentenced to prison time for conspiracy to use fake names and false pretenses to acquire prescription drugs after a state appellate court panel today overturned a previous decision to throw out his conviction.
Stern was cleared in 2010 of nine felony charges connected with Smith's prescription-drug use but convicted on two counts of conspiracy. In February 2011, L.A. Superior Court Judge Robert Perry vacated the convictions against Stern and three of four against a codefendant, citing lack of evidence.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal didn't agree with Perry's decision, with Presiding Justice Paul Turner writing in their collective ruling that there was evidence that Stern "knowingly participated in conduct designed to avoid detection and scrutiny" and that he knew Smith had prescriptions made out to other names.
"His knowledge and involvement was such the jury could reasonably conclude Mr. Stern, a lawyer, knowingly participated in the ongoing illegal practice of securing illegal prescriptions," Turner wrote.
Perry now has several options on his plate regarding Stern: He can consider Stern's previous motion for a new trial, find other grounds for dismissal or sentence him to prison or probation based on the original conviction.
The 34-page ruling noted, however, that retrying Stern for conspiracy would constitute double jeopardy, so if Perry agrees with Stern's argument for a new trial, he then has to dismiss the case.
After Perry first vacated Stern's convictions, plus three of four charges against former Smith psychiatrist Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, the L.A. District Attorney's Office vowed later that day to appeal the decision.
Eroshevich, who was left with one conviction for using a false name to obtain a prescription, was sentenced by Perry to a year of probation and fined $100. Double jeopardy on the conspiracy charges do not apply to her, however, and she is eligible for retrial.