Trial update: Prosecution witnesses continue in hospital fraud case

By Errol Castens/Northeast Miss. Daily Journal

OXFORD – Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers started court Thursday morning with a scolding of prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had only Wednesday asked that the 26-count indictment against former Panola County administrator and Tri-Lakes Medical Center board chairman David Chandler be unsealed.
Chandler, who pleaded guilty to two of those counts and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, had been the sole witness for the first two days of the criminal trial of Ray Shoemaker of Tupelo and Lee Garner of Batesville.
The government argues that Garner gave bribes to Chandler and that Chandler gave bribes to Shoemaker to steer hospital business to Garner’s medical staffing firms.
“Why did you wait until yesterday to ask that the indictment be unsealed,” Biggers asked prosecutors.
“It didn’t occur to us to unseal it earlier,” Asst. U.S. Attorney Charles Spillers answered.
Biggers was not assuaged.
“It didn’t occur to you that this would reflect on the credibility of your star witness?” he scolded before allowing the trial to resume.
Spillers on redirect asked Chandler whether he had any doubt that the monies he presented to Shoemaker, who was chief operating officer of Tri-Lakes at the time, were loans, as Shoemaker asserted.
Chandler, a former deputy state auditor, also reasserted that the six-figure payments Garner made to him were in exchange for his influence.

Read Friday’s NEMS Daily Journal for more details.