Factoid lawyer call indictments 'political' - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Factoid lawyer call indictments 'political'

January 5, 2006

Albany -- Last month, two men who are critics of Phoebe Putney Hospital were indicted.

What makes this so unusual is that they were indicted for crimes that were never even reported to police as crimes.  And their lawyers say the indictments are nothing more than a political attempt to quiet Phoebe critics, and they don't come close to the standards needed to charge a person with a crime.

Dr. John Bagnato was indicted for harassing phone calls, for sending out the Phoebe Factoids faxes. Bagnato's Attorney, Ralph Powell, said, "It's our position that is simply not a crime in the state of Georgia."

Powell filed a motion to drop those indictments, as well as aggravated assault and burglary charges. The motion points out the indictment lacks facts, and doesn't even state when the crime is supposed to have occurred.

In fact, no criminal report was ever made to Police on any of the charges.  "There was not a police report, incident report, or any 911 call or anything regarding this," Powell said. "That is extremely unusual."

Mississippi Private Investigator Jim Bowman is charged with entering Dr. Jim Hotz's home and indicating he had a weapon. Bowman's attorney, Bobby Lee Cook, also filed a motion to dismiss the charges.  "This indictment is either predicated upon perjury, or in the alternative, incompetence," Cook said.

Both Powell and Cook say Phoebe Putney management played a part in these criminal charges being filed, to shut up the whistle blowers. Powell said "The documentation that we have seen there is an undercurrent throughout that there is another agenda that is involved."

Another agenda that critics say even included Dougherty District Attorney Ken Hodges. Hodges, whose wife was given a job at Phoebe late last year, turned over grand jury files to Phoebe so they could find out who wrote the Phoebe Factoids.

Cook said "It is either a political case, or it is the most bizarre case I have ever seen."

Both lawyers are sure the criminal charges against their clients will disappear soon. "I am confident that this motion will be granted. I would hope that the District Attorney would re-evaluate, I will say that," said Powell.

No judge has been assigned to the case yet, so there is no time table for these motions being heard.

Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke brought the charges against Bagnato, Bowman, and Charles Rehberg. He did not return repeated phone calls.

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