By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Former Panola County administrator David Chandler told a federal jury Tuesday that he accepted and paid bribes in a scheme to boost a third man’s nursing services business.
Moments before, defense attorneys for Ray Shoemaker of Tupelo and Lee Garner of Batesville called Chandler the former “Boss Hog” of Panola County, a scumbag, a liar, a crook, a thief, an embezzler and “the most despicable person you’ll ever see.”
Shoemaker, 39, and Garner, 67, face charges they were part of a multi-million-dollar federal fraud through Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville.
Jury selection wrapped up soon after mid-day with eight men and eight women seated out of 55 summoned for potential jury duty.
Senior U.S. District Judge Neal B. Biggers presides over the trial that’s scheduled for three weeks.
Chandler’s testimony began and ended Tuesday afternoon. His testimony will resume at 9:30 a.m. today.
Across the three hours on the stand, the former auditor described a series of meetings and conversations that led him to push Shoemaker to increase demand for nurses working through Garner’s staffing business at Tri-Lakes, where Shoemaker was chief executive officer and Chandler was president of its board.
Chandler claimed Garner paid him $268,000 across two years and that he paid Shoemaker $12,000 after Shoemaker allegedly told him he wanted in on the kickback scheme.
Defense attorneys will get a chance to question Chandler when the government completes its direct examination.
Prosecutor Charles Spillers told the jury, as the trial began, that the three men were part of a conspiracy of greed and corruption.
Shoemaker’s attorney, Steven Farese, said his client was Chandler’s “patsy” and said the payments to him were a loan, not a bribe.
Farese also told the jury that Chandler, who pleaded guilty to a separate federal charge, has a sealed indictment waiting for him. “We can only imagine what he’s really done,” the Ashland lawyer said. “He got his tail in a crack and he’s squealing like a pig, the pig that he is.”
Garner’s attorney, John Ferrell of Booneville, had similarly unflattering things to say about Chandler.
Testimony also is expected from co-defendant Dr. Robert Corkern of Batesville, who pleaded guilty to the alleged scheme a few months ago.
If convicted on all counts, Garner faces up to 25 years in prison and a $1 million fine, and Shoemaker up to 145 years in prison and a $5 million fine.