By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The last witness in the hospital fraud, bribery and conspiracy trial of Ray Shoemaker and Lee Garner was the same as the first.
Defense attorneys were allowed to bring back former Panola County Administrator and former Tri-Lakes Medical Center Board Chairman David Chandler for one last swing at his credibility. His reappearance was related to documents that prosecutors failed to give to defense teams during discovery – a mistake that prompted an unsuccessful request for mistrial.
Shoemaker, a Tupelo businessman and the Batesville hospital’s former CEO, and Garner, a Batesville businessman, are accused by a federal grand jury of a host of crimes from kickback schemes and health care fraud to making false statements to federal agents and agencies in connection with loans. Shoemaker is additionally charged with embezzlement of $250,000 from the hospital.
Wednesday’s defense witnesses included forensic accountant Mark Bullock, who testified the rate Tri-Lakes paid Garner’s agency for on-call nurses was below industry averages but higher than the hospital had previously paid.
Several former or present Tri-Lakes employees whose duties related to nurse staffing testified that they had never been told from which agencies to hire fill-in nurses.
Joyce Goins, a house supervisor at Tri-Lakes in 2006 and 2007, said, “We would call all the agencies, and whoever responded first with a nurse got (the assignment).”
Government prosecutors and witnesses have built their case around a paper trail with excruciating amounts of detail. Less successfully, they pinned additional hopes on the testimony of Chandler, whose own 26-count indictment, admitted crimes and frequent self-contradictions on the stand helped defense attorneys minimize his testimony.
His alleged roles in the crimes include taking $268,000 in bribes from Garner to steer business from Tri-Lakes Medical Center to Garner’s medical staffing agencies and sharing the funds with Shoemaker.
Attorneys for both sides will begin closing arguments today at 9:30 a.m. today.