By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – A physician who pleaded guilty to bribery in what Judge Neal Biggers characterized as an attempt to save the Batesville hospital was given two years’ house confinement and three years’ post-release supervision Tuesday.
Dr. Robert Corkern, who bought the troubled Tri-Lakes Medical Center in 2005, was also ordered to pay $400,000 restitution and a $100 special assessment.
The emergency medicine specialist bought the medical center around 2005 using Kaizen Inc., a nonprofit consulting entity owned by then-hospital administrator Ray Shoemaker. He testified in February at the trial of Shoemaker and co-defendant Earnest Levi Garner, a Batesville businessman, that then-Panola County Administrator David Chandler informed him of $400,000 of hospital-owned money in county custody and agreed to transfer it to the hospital but that Chandler threatened to ruin the hospital unless Corkern paid him $25,000.
“It appears you allowed yourself to be used as a puppet or pawn by greedy, unscrupulous men to enrich themselves,” Biggers, senior judge of the U.S. District Court for Northern Mississippi, said. “You made a terrible mistake by letting these people outweigh your common sense.”
Biggers added that it did not appear that Corkern profited from any illegalities regarding the hospital.
“You were evidently trying to save it,” the judge said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mims told Biggers in Tuesday’s sentencing procedure that Corkern “has been very cooperative since the beginning,” noting his extensive and candid testimony in the Shoemaker/Garner trial and his knowledge that helped trigger a guilty plea in another case.
Biggers acknowledged the mass of letters he received in support of Corkern, and Corkern’s attorney, William Travis, credited his client as having “pretty much resurrected” the emergency medicine department of Delta Regional Medical Center.