Shoemaker, Garner defenses begin

By NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – FBI agent Shannon Wright ended the prosecution’s testimony Tuesday in the bribery and fraud trial against Tupelo businessman Ray Shoemaker and Batesville businessman Lee Garner.
Wright said when she interviewed Shoemaker, he denied he’d ever received payments from David Chandler until she produced copies of the checks.
After asking “How many of those do you have?,” Shoemaker began claiming the payments were a loan. Prosecutors repeated evidence, however, of Shoemaker’s pay increase from $125,000 to $175,000 and then even higher during the period of the payments, questioning how he could need $2,000 loans.
On cross-examination Wright admitted she had not followed proper procedure for documenting her meetings with Shoemaker.
The case is based largely on bribes that Chandler, then Panola County’s administrator and hospital board chairman, allegedly took from Garner and shared with Shoemaker for getting extra business for Garner’s medical staffing firms from Tri-Lakes Medical Center, of which Shoemaker was chief operating officer and later chief executive officer. It also focuses on a $250,000 payment from the hospital to Shoemaker’s nonprofit entity for its role in purchasing the hospital from the county.
Defense attorneys asserted they had not been given one or more documents that Wright referenced. Prosecutors searched their records and acknowledged the failure. Judge Neal Biggers said he would study the relevance of the document before deciding an action.
Defense attorneys also asked for a bench acquittal, arguing that the government’s case called for too much speculation on the part of the jury. Biggers declined the request.
James Pope of Shelbyville, Tenn., an expert on USDA loans of the sort used to buy Tri-Lakes, testified that payment for the use of a nonprofit is not irregular. Patrick Kinney of UPS Capital, who helped finance the hospital transaction, also said the nonprofit controlled by Shoemaker had compensable value.
Former Tri-Lakes Chief Financial Officer John Gregory will resume testimony when court begins at 9 a.m. today.