By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock on Wednesday deferred sentencing for Michael David Chandler, a central character in a web of bribery, conspiracy and fraud that threatened the Batesville hospital’s survival in the mid-2000s.
Chandler, the former Panola County administrator and a former member of the Tri-Lakes Medical Center Board of Directors, pled guilty to charges of “knowingly devising and executing a scheme … to defraud Panola County” and “knowingly and intentionally embezzling … property of Panola County.”
He became a prosecution witness against co-defendants Ray Shoemaker, a Tupelo businessman who was the Tri-Lakes administrator during the years in question, and Earnest Levi Garner, a Batesville businessman. Shoemaker and Garner were convicted on a host of charges early this year, but on appeal Garner was granted a new trial on all his charges, and Shoemaker was granted a new trial on several.
One of the charges to which Chandler pled guilty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release; the other carries a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised released.
Judge Aycock unexpectedly cleared her courtroom for a 45-minute conference during which current Panola County Administrator Kelley Magee gave testimony that was ordered sealed. After reopening the courtroom to the public, Aycock announced that more research was needed and that another sentencing date would be set.