Larry Birkhead, who gained fame in a custody battle over Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter, was due to testify in the preliminary hearing for two doctors and the man who once fought him for custody of little Dannielynn.
Howard K. Stern, the boyfriend-lawyer who claimed he was the baby’s father, lost that battle when Birkhead proved by DNA evidence that the little girl was his. Now Stern sits in the defendant’s chair before a judge who will decide if he and the two doctors must stand trial in Smith’s drug overdose death.
Dr. Khristine Eroshevich, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Stern are not charged with killing her but with conspiring to illegally provide her with controlled substances.
In testimony by Smith’s former bodyguard, Stern was portrayed as a devoted companion to the celebrity model who went through a “commitment ceremony” with her five months before she died.
Witness Maurice Brighthaupt said he was present at the ceremony on a boat off the Bahamas on Sept. 28, 2006, the same month that Smith gave birth to her baby and saw her only son Daniel die.
“It was a unification through the eyes of God is how they put it,” Brighthaupt said.
But Brighthaupt also offered damaging testimony against both Stern and Eroshevich saying he witnessed them injecting Smith with medication. It was the first time he has made such an allegation and Stern’s attorney Steve Sadow attacked his account as false. He showed that Brighthaupt had given different stories to cable TV outlets after Smith’s death in return for payments of $150,000 for his interviews.
Brighthaupt, who spent two full days on the witness stand, was to wind up his testimony Friday morning before Birkhead was due on the witness stand.
He has not commented on Birkhead’s role in Smith’s life except to say that he was with Smith in May of 2004 when she met Birkhead at the Kentucky Derby and began dating him.
Sadow indicated outside court he was looking forward to Birkhead’s testimony.
“I think Larry’s going to do his best to tell the truth,” said Sadow. “If he does, he’ll be very helpful to Howard.”
Under Sadow’s cross-examination, Brighthaupt said that many of the things he told his TV interviewers were lies, crafted to protect Smith’s reputation. Among them was his statement that he never saw her take illicit drugs and never saw the drug methadone in her house. He also said then that Smith was in control of everything including decisions about her medication. He said now that was a lie.
“I had a lot of time to think about everything I said in the past and I’m trying to rectify everything now,” he said.
He also acknowledged he had tried to sell a book on the case but the publisher rejected his manuscript calling it “too boring.”
Thursday’s court session was marked by Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry’s decision to bar the prosecution from inquiring about an alleged sexual relationship between Smith and Eroshevich who had been her longtime psychiatrist and friend.
“This is a preliminary hearing,” Perry told the prosecutors. “It’s not a trial. It’s to determine if there’s probable cause for a trial. I’m just not going to turn this into some circus sideshow.”
Perry said the issue could be raised again at trial before another judge, who could then rule on its relevance.
Outside court, attorney Adam Braun, who represents Eroshevich, called the sexual allegation a distraction and said the judge made the right call in barring the testimony.
Search warrants executed in the case and released a few weeks ago described photos of Smith and Eroshevich in a bathtub in a sexual situation.
Brighthaupt offered no testimony against Kapoor and said he had not heard of him. Kapoor’s lawyer asked him no questions.