By John Howell
U. S. District Judge Neal Biggers has ordered new trials for Lee Garner and Ray Shoemaker on four counts and three counts, respectively, stemming from a 2012 trial for an alleged kickback-bribery scheme at Tri-Lakes Medical Center.
In a memorandum opinion filed July 15 the judge ordered the new trials because the government failed to make known to defense attorneys indictments against David Chandler until the Feb., 2012 trial was almost over.
“The government’s main witness — Chandler, the man who originated the conspiracy for which these defendants were prosecuted — was, at the time of the trial, under a 26 count criminal indictment and had been for approximately one year,” Biggers states in a memorandum opinion issued July 15.
The indictments against Chandler were filed in May, 2010 and sealed at the government’s request, according to the order. Shoemaker and Garner were indicted in Feb., 2011 and went to trial one year later.
“The … material obviously would have been useful in planning a defense and planning a cross-examination of the main witness for the government; yet, its existence was not revealed until the trial was in progress and Chandler had already testified on direct,” Judge Biggers states in the July 15 memorandum opinion.
The U. S. District Court jury handed down verdicts on March 2, 2012, finding Garner guilty on four counts of a 10-count indictment; Shoemaker guilty on 10 counts of the indictment.
In August, 2012, Judge Biggers acquitted Garner on appeal of all four counts against him and acquitted Shoemaker on the counts related to Garner. The judge also ordered a retrial on one of the counts for which the jury had found Shoemaker guilty but allowed the other guilty counts against him to stand.
The U. S. Attorney’s office appealed Biggers’ decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and last March the appeals court issued a ruling that sided with the jury. Biggers’ acquittals were set aside.
With Biggers’ July 15 decision ordering new trials, the next step is with the U. S. Attorney.