Garner trial rescheduled

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One more time: Biggers agrees to move trial date

By Billy Davis

The federal judge overseeing a looming criminal trial in Oxford is apparently allowing a January 9 trial date to move one more time.

In a two-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. described his intention to set aside dates in late January and mid-February for a trial that is expected to last three weeks.

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Biggers had already granted four postponements since April when defense attorney Ronald Michael requested yet another one from the court, this time in late November.

Postponement of court proceedings is known as a continuance in legal parlance.

In his motion, Michael explained that a murder trial in Memphis is set for January 9, 2012. A circuit court judge refused to move the date because the defendant has been in jail since 2010, the attorney wrote.

Michael, of Booneville, filed the motion for continuance on behalf of client Lee Garner, the Batesville businessman accused of colluding in a kickback scheme at Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

Other defendants in that federal case are Ray Shoemaker, the former CEO at Tri-Lakes, and former County Administrator David Chandler.

Federal investigators allege Chandler abused his position as county administrator to receive kickbacks from Garner to ensure Shoemaker utilized Garner’s nurse staffing business at Tri-Lakes.

Chandler is set to waive indictment and plead guilty to two unknown counts at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen that is scheduled for January 5. He is represented by attorney Hiram Eastland Jr.

Meanwhile, Shoemaker, Garner and third defendant Dr. Robert Corkern have pleaded not guilty to a myriad of federal charges and are all free on bond as they await trial.  

Biggers noted in his latest ruling that the defense team for the three defendants now totals 10 attorneys, with Garner employing Michael and four others.

The federal judge asks the 10 defense attorneys and three federal prosecutors to inform the court of their preferred date to start the trial, either January 30 or February 12.

The order states that Biggers has given the attorneys seven days from December 1 to notify the court or the current trial date, January 9, will remain.

Before Michael submitted his motion for continuance, Biggers had turned down a similar motion from Batesville attorney Parker Still, who has a trial in Quitman County beginning January 9.

Still and William Travis, a Southaven attorney, are representing Corkern.

Biggers had already moved the trial date from December 12 to January 9, 2012 after Travis asked the court to grant a continuance.

Still and Travis had argued for a continuance since their client was named in a superseding indictment that became public in October.