Dr. Corkern plea

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 6, 2012

No trial for doc: court hearing set for Monday

What happened: Federal court documents filed this week show that Batesville doctor Robert Corkern will change his plea from not guilty to guilty in a court hearing January 9 in Oxford.
What happens next: The court hearing will reveal what counts Corkern will plead guilty to and if he will be a witness for prosecutors in a pending February 21 trial.

By Billy Davis
Batesville doctor Robert Corkern is set to enter a guilty plea Monday in front of Senior U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. in Oxford.

Court documents announcing a “change of plea” were filed Tuesday, revealing an apparent plea deal between the doctor and federal prosecutors.

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It’s unclear what federal counts Corkern will plead guilty to. He was arraigned October 11 when he was formally charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, loan and credit application fraud, and bribery involving federal programs.

The Batesville doctor has been free on a $40,000 bond and was set to go to trial February 21 with two co-defendants.

Tuesday’s court hearing is set for 1:15 p.m. at the United States Federal Building in Oxford.
Batesville attorney Parker Still, who is representing Corkern, confirmed Thursday that his client will change his plea next Monday but would not comment further about the matter.

Corkern is also represented by William Travis, a Southaven attorney.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office could not be reached for comment Thursday at press time.
Corkern’s name surfaced last October when federal prosecutors unsealed a superseding indictment alleging Corkern had conspired with Ray Shoemaker to funnel money from a line of credit that was intended to operate Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville.

The indictment claimed that Corkern diverted $2.8 million from non-profit Physicians and Surgeons Group over two years to for-profit entities he controlled.

Corkern and Shoemaker oversaw operation of the hospital through Physicians and Surgeons, which had purchased the hospital from the City of Batesville and Panola County in 2005.  

The hospital devolved into bankruptcy in 2007 and is under new management today.

The superseding indictment added new information to a FBI investigation that had already alleged Shoemaker, Batesville businessman Lee Garner and David Chandler, the former county administrator, colluded in a kickback scheme involving Garner’s nurse staffing business at Tri-Lakes.  

Corkern also stands accused of bribing Chandler with $25,000 to get $400,000 in county funds for the hospital.

Chandler had made his own plea deal with prosecutors in return for testifying next month against other co-defendants, which now include only Garner and Shoemaker.

Chandler avoided indictment when he pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and embezzlement at a December 14 court hearing at the U.S. Courthouse in Aberdeen.