Factoids case may be heard in Atlanta - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Factoids case may be heard in Atlanta

April 10, 2006

Albany -- The Phoebe Factoids criminal case could be headed to the state Supreme Court. The Factoids were anonymous faxes that brought to light lavish spending by administrators at Phoebe Putney Hospital. The authors were arrested and face criminal charges.

Monday, Lawyers for both the defense and the prosecution say they expect the indictment will go before Georgia's Supreme Court, no matter which way the Judge decides.

Defense lawyers for the Phoebe Factoid Authors asked that the criminal indictments be dismissed. Attorney Bobby Lee Cook said, "I have never seen a case that is this silly, or useless, or ridiculous as this one."

Dr. John Bagnato, his practice C.P.A. Charles Rehberg, and Mississippi private detective Jim Bowman are charged with six misdemeanor counts of harassing phone calls and simple assault.

Bagnato and Rehberg wrote the Phoebe Factoids, which exposed collection practices and lavish spending by administrators at the community Hospital. The two were arrested in December for making harassing phone calls for distributing the faxes.

In Court, defense lawyers argued that the Georgia law they are charged with breaking deals only with phone calls-- and not faxes. Defense attorney Converse Bright said, "It's got statutes on fax machines, and it's got statutes on telephone calls. We think this is clearly one that pertains only to telephone calls."

Now Judge Harry Altman will decide the issue, and both sides say they will appeal if they lose.

Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke asked, "Can a fax constitute a telephone call? State contends it is, and defense says it's not. I imagine ultimately it will be the Supreme Court that will decide the issue."

Prosecutors explained to the Judge that Jim Bowman is charged with simple assault, because Dr. Jim Hotz felt threatened when Bowman reached into his pocket.

Cook described the whole case as a 'waste.' "It's a waste of county money. It is an excessive waste of the expensive judicial resources. And it's a damned waste of my time."

Bobby Lee Cook said he would put his money where his mouth is, and promised $25,000 to charity if the indictment is not thrown out.

Cook is the eccentric lawyer the "Matlock" Television series character was based on. He said today his client is considering filing lawsuits against the "People who conceived these criminal charges."

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=FactoidSupremeCourt/Wallace