While Howard K. Stern is awaiting trial in connection with charges that he improperly assisted his former client and girlfriend, Anna Nicole Smith, in obtaining drugs which prosecutors say contributed to her death, he also is juggling other litigation, including a defamation lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court which he filed against two individuals whom Stern alleges were the sources for many of the statements at issue in another defamation suit Stern has filed against reporter Rita Crosby. The Crosby suit is pending in New York.
Although the other law suits filed by Stern for defamation are only civil lawsuits, meaning that they have been brought by a private individual (Stern) against other individuals and the court, at most, has the power to enter a monetary judgment against the defendants as opposed to imposing a prison sentence or other criminal sanctions, the civil lawsuits filed by Stern may impact issues other than just money.
Indeed, in court documents filed in the Los Angeles civil case, Stern has stated under penalty of perjury that "Mark Speer’s accusation to the effect that I drugged Anna is absolutely false. I never facilitated or promoted any type of drug use, prescription or otherwise. Anna was an intelligent, strong-willed individual, who made her own decisions and was not controlled by anyone or anything."
In the complaint filed by Stern, he alleges that "The Chief Medical Examiner investigating Anna’s death determined that the cause of her death was an accident..." Stern also alleges in the suit, which was filed well before he was charged criminally in the Smith affair, "At no times were any criminal charges filed against any person in connection with Anna’s death."
The suit pending in the Los Angeles Superior Court was filed by Stern on September 2, 2008 and a jury trial is scheduled to commence on January, 25, 2010. In the defamation lawsuit, Stern has named as defendants Mark Speer and Jacqueline Elizabeth Hatten whom Stern alleges, according to court documents, knew that reporter Rita Crosby was writing a book and that they were the sources for many of what Stern labels "false and defamatory statements" contained in the book that Crosby wrote. Crosby’s book is entitled, "Blonde Ambition: The Untold Story Behind Anna Nicole Smith’s Death".
In the Los Angeles suit, Stern alleges that Speer is a long time friend of Deborah Opri who is an attorney who represented Larry Birkhead in connection with the paternity suit involving the child whom Stern initially said was his. In court documents, Stern alleges that Opri blames Stern for the "breakdown" in the relationship between her and Birkhead. However, in a written declaration submitted to the court, Speer said that although he had known Opri since the "mid-nineties," that "...she was not a long-time friend, nor did I socialize with her." Speer has also denied other allegations made against him by Stern.
Many of the alleged representations which are at issue in the Stern civil suits are explosive and embarrassing to Stern. It is too early to tell whether these suits will benefit Stern in the way that they were designed to upon being filed. A motion by the defendants to dismiss the case has been denied by the court.
However, many legal analysts will tell you that while a defendant is embroiled in a criminal action, as a defendant, he has to be very careful about what he says or alleges in any other action-criminal or civil. Stern, however, has waged a very aggressive defense in connection with the criminal charges against him, and does not show any signs that he will slow down his efforts to win an acquittal in criminal court and obtain monetary relief in civil court.