MIAMI — The flamboyant judge brought to fame in the fight over Anna Nicole Smith’s remains says he believes someone is guilty of manslaughter in the starlet’s death and second-guesses his own decision over where she is buried in a book to be released Tuesday.
Larry Seidlin, the former Fort Lauderdale judge, is harshly critical of Smith’s lawyer-turned-companion Howard K. Stern, and of the police investigations into the deaths of the Playboy Playmate and her son. But as provocatively titled as “The Killing of Anna Nicole Smith” is, Seidlin offers no evidence either death was anything more than the accidental drug overdoses they were deemed.
“I think enablers should be punished,” Seidlin writes, then refers directly to Stern. “How about keeping her off drugs while she was alive? He was with her every day; how about saying no, and if she kicks your ass out, then goodbye and good luck.”
Then, the judge says, “we won’t have all this celebrity blood on our hands.”
Seidlin presided over the six-day televised hearing into the fate of Smith’s body, shortly after her February 2007 death. His jurisdiction was limited to control of Smith’s body; Florida never charged anyone in connection with her death. A California court is determining whether she was illegally given drugs.
Seidlin’s hearing became a national obsession, with a cast of characters suited for reality TV. Bronx-born Seidlin, a former New York cab driver, was full of smart-alecky one-liners and nicknames for the massive roster of attorneys and witnesses. Dr. Joshua Perper, the medical examiner, became “Dr. Pepper” and lawyers were nicknamed “California” and “Texas,” after their home states.
“I’m not going to talk about this case ever again,” he promised at its close. But, of course, he did and he remained in the news, including the book from Canada-based Transit Publishing, which specializes in celebrity biographies.
In a phone interview Monday, Seidlin said he was compelled to write the book because he was troubled by the deaths of Smith and her son. “When I was sitting in that trial,” he said, “red flags were flying in front of me and I had a lot of sleepless nights.”
Seidlin has also signed a deal for a television show called “Psychic Court,” in which he’ll seek the input of tarot card readers, astrologer and other psychics to help him decide family court and small claims disputes. He said it was slated to premiere in Fall 2011. Los Angeles-based production company Mighty Oak Entertainment said it’s shopping the show for syndication or cable.
Meanwhile, Stern and two of Smith’s doctors are scheduled to go on trial Aug. 4 on charges that they illegally funneled sedatives and opiates to the model. They have pleaded not guilty and are not charged with causing Smith’s death.
Seidlin says in the book that Stern “exercised a great amount of control over Anna Nicole by maintaining and reviewing her drug desires and addiction.” He calls for reopening investigations into the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, in September 2006 and of the model five months later, noting Stern was present at both. He says police bungled the original investigations.
Stern’s attorney, Steve Sadow, said “Any allegations made by Judge Seidlin against Howard K. Stern are truly unworthy of response.”
Much of Seidlin’s book is a rehash of the Smith hearings he oversaw, simply reprinting court transcripts with commentary mixed in. He frequently tries to burnish his own image as a judge, but also appears to question the one decision he made in the case.
“I want her buried with her son in the Bahamas,” he said through tears at the time. “I want them to be together.”
Throughout the book, though, Seidlin is sympathetic to Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur, who fought for her estranged daughter’s burial in her native Texas. He calls for her reburial there, or possibly in California, saying “Her soul and Danny’s soul need to be placed on sacred ground in the Lone Star state with people who grew up with her and loved her in her simpler days.”
In the phone interview, Seidlin said he felt his “hands were tied” and that he couldn’t separate mother and son.
He admits in the book that he “a little corny” during the trial. He defends against criticism that his showboating drastically elongated proceedings, saying anyone who thinks they could have been done in a day or two “is a complete idiot.” He also says he’s not ashamed of sobbing on the bench, nor has he shed his last tear over the case.
As for when he first learned he would be handling the case, Seidlin said he received a call from his judicial assistant alerting him they needed to schedule an emergency hearing.
“Who is Anna Nicole Smith?” he said he asked his wife, who was incredulous he didn’t know.
“If she played second base for the Yankees,” he retorted, “I’d know her.”