Garner, Shoemaker post trial motions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Attorneys battle in court filings after convictions

By Billy Davis

Attorneys for Lee Garner and Ray Shoemaker have asked for an acquittal, and filed other post-trial motions, following the defendants’ convictions by a federal grand jury in March.

The motion for acquittal asks Senior Judge Neal Biggers Jr. to overturn the jury verdict based on a lack of credible evidence, according to the court motion filed by attorney John Ferrell of Booneville.  

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The defense attorneys’ post-trial motions, which are standard following a conviction, ask Biggers to throw out their clients’ conviction or order a new trial.

An appeal of the jury’s verdict would go before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Biggers has allowed the defendants’ attorneys more time to file documents but the judge has not responded to the motions for a acquittal or a new trial, federal court documents show.  

The federal government, meanwhile, has filed a response arguing that taped conversations between Garner and David Chandler proved to jurors that Garner was aware Chandler was engaged in a questionable scheme that benefited Garner’s nurse staffing business.

That taped conversation and others occurred when Chandler, already facing federal prosecution, agreed to wear a body wire for the FBI.

At one point in a taped conversation Garner asked Chandler, a friend and long-time employee, if he was wearing a wire and Chandler denied that he was.

Five recorded conversations between Garner and Chandler were sprinkled through the government’s written response to defense attorneys. One conversation from February 2011 recorded this exchange:

Garner: So (Shoemaker’s) turnin’ you in? He’s…

Chandler: He’s throwin’ everybody under the bus. But uh…

Garner: You didn’t take the…did you pay him directly, with a check?

Chander: Mmm-hmm.

Garner: So what’s that gonna do?

Chandler: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think anything but I just…uh…uh…

Garner: You didn’t pay one of his companies, did you?

Chandler: Mmm-hmm. But it was, you know, he was part of Tri-Lakes at that time.
Garner: Is this gonna be called bribery?

In a second recorded conversation, Garner tells Chandler “don’t tell me too much” when Chandler begins explaining the five-dollar-per-hour billing.

“Well, don’t tell me too much,” Garner says. “I don’t….I can’t remember all that sh–. I don’t wanna know. So I paid…I never paid you so much an hour? I just paid you for legal services?”

“Mmm-hmm,” Chandler replies.

“For professional services,” Garner says.

“And tax returns,” Chandler responds. “You know I never billed for any tax returns though.”

During the federal trial, prosecutors claimed checks written from Garner’s nursing business to Chandler from 2004 to 2007 were kickback money for securing more billing hours at Tri-Lakes Medical Center.

Attorneys for Garner never denied he paid Chandler, arguing in court that the payments were for legal services since Chandler worked as Garner’s part-time bookkeeper.  

Chandler was paid $268,000 from 2004 to 2007, including a one-time payment for $28,000 in 2005.
The purpose of the payments was for “accounting fees” or “accounting services” according to copies of the checks shown during the trial.  

Oxford attorney Christi McCoy, who also represents Garner, argued in a separate court filing that Garner could have been seeking a tax write-off, among other “innumerable reasons,” for instructing office staff to write “accounting services” on Chandler’s checks.

McCoy also reminded the court that several current and former Tri-Lakes employees testified they were never asked to increase the nursing hours for Garner’s business.

McCoy also shot back at the government’s claim that Garner admitted he was paying Chandler for “procuring business” for his nursing business.

“When interviewed by federal agents investigating this matter, Garner admitted he was paying Chandler for the purpose of ‘procuring business.’ This admission alone is sufficient to support the jury’s verdict,” Robert Mims, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote in the government’s response.  

McCoy responded that Garner candidly told FBI agent Shannon Wright that he would pay her, too, for improving business, indicating that Garner believed he had done nothing wrong.

“Mr. Garner’s candor with federal agents is circumstantial evidence that he did not act with the requisite mens rea required to violate any of the statutes he is charged under, and instead, acted in good faith,” McCoy wrote to the court.

Mens rea is a Latin term for “guilty mind.”