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Thursday, August 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesDefense Begins to Make Its Stand in Hospital Corruption Trial

Defense Begins to Make Its Stand in Hospital Corruption Trial

While Tuesday morning saw the return of former hospital board chairwoman June Adams for a brief 20 minutes of testimony, the rest of the time was spent debating motions and breaking for recess as defense attorneys for Rodney Miller Sr., Amos Carty Jr. and Peter Najawicz prepared to lay out their cases.

The three former Schneider Regional Medical Center officials have been on trial for the last month on a range of corruption, conspiracy and embezzlement charges, with prosecutors arguing that they worked together to pad each other’s contracts with lucrative benefits and perks not approved by the hospital’s governing board.

The prosecution’s case has focused, in particular, on two 2005 employment agreements with Miller, along with a number of transactions from a Scotia Bank account they have argued was used as the officials’ own "private slush fund."

The prosecution rested its case Tuesday after Adams’ brief appearance—whose initial testimony was cut short after she fell ill two weeks ago—and defense attorneys moved immediately with motions for mistrial, dismissal and acquittal, saying essentially that no evidence had been presented to substantiate the charges against their clients.

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The motions were denied in succession by V.I. Superior Court Judge Michael C. Dunston, who is presiding over the trial.

In addressing the motions, Dunston cited particular witness testimony and various exhibits that he said was evidence enough to support the conspiracy and individual charges against the group.

Dunston also denied a motion from Miller defense attorney Alan Teague—originally filed while preparations for the trial were under way—to bring in expert testimony about how computers and various documents on them were kept over the past four years.

At one point, Teague argued Tuesday that the witness, who he said flew in from New Jersey, could support arguments that there were emails from Miller and Carty about the employment agreements that would have been seen by the board, but were not because of improper maintenance.

"We’ll never know now," Teague said after Dunston ruled that the witness’ testimony would not be "helpful" to the jury considering the other issues that had been discussed during the trial.

Teague subsequently got in two witnesses after jurors were shown in around 2 p.m., but their testimony was also short and dealt with specific issues.

On the stand, Dr. Alfred Heath was asked to describe the changes in the hospital under Miller’s tenure — in particular how the hospital improved once it was accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospital Organizations (JCAHO). Along with a variety of structural improvements, Heath said one notable change was the addition of "super specialists," including a cardiologist, to the staff.

Heath said the staff’s morale did improve during that time, but was also "good" before Miller came on board.

Teague also called Nicholas Peru, a special investigator with the V.I. Inspector General’s Office, to testify on several educational reimbursement payments made to Miller, which prosecutors have argued exceeded the amount of money included in Miller’s contract and was not substantiated with any documentation except for copies of checks that were made out to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

The V.I. Inspector General’s Office collaborated with its federal counterparts in the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs on a comprehensive audit of the hospital’s finances in 2007, and it is from that report that the charges against Miller, Carty and Najawicz stem.

While on the stand, Peru verified an exhibit that was identified as a transcript of Miller’s from MUSC but said later under cross-examination from government attorney Denise George-Counts that he was curious, while investigating the reimbursements, about how Miller could go to school for four years while still working as the full-time head of the hospital.

Several sidebars and recesses followed the testimony, and continued well after the jury was dismissed shortly after 4 p.m. At the time, Dunston said that several problems had come up that would "take a while" to sort out.

The trial is set to resume early Wednesday morning.

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