Attorney says D. A. violated Georgia law - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Attorney says D. A. violated Georgia law

April 27, 2006

Albany -- An Albany lawyer says Dougherty District Attorney Ken Hodges broke the law when he subpoenaed information and then let Phoebe Putney Hospital pay for it.

Court records show Hodges used his office's subpoena powers to help Phoebe find out who wrote those factoids that criticized hospital managers.

Phoebe Putney footed the five thousand dollar bill, and therein lies the problem. Georgia law states a law enforcement agency cannot accept payment from a person or corporation to help pay for an investigation. Tonight, the lawyer for one of the Factoid writers is calling for an investigation into the D.A.'s actions.

 District Attorney Ken Hodges admits he used a grand jury subpoena in 2003 to trace the source of the Phoebe Factoids, and then turned that information over to Phoebe Putney Hospital officials.

Unsealed court records show Phoebe then paid the bill for the trace. District Attorney Ken Hodges said "We investigated an allegation of a criminal offense. We didn't do anything for anyone, we investigated a criminal offense."

The records show Phoebe board members O.K.'d Private detectives being sent to confront Charles Rehberg about the faxes he authored, critical of hospital administrators.

This is the 4060 dollar check dated November 13, 2003, signed by Phoebe C.F.O. Kerry Loudermilk, sent to Bellsouth to pay for the phone trace. Georgia code 16-10-3 and a later attorney general opinion says it's a misdemeanor for law enforcement to have third parties pay for prosecution investigations. Rehberg Attorney Ralph Scoccimaro said "If you are investigating a public offense, there is no need for the victims, supposed victims, to give you any money."

 D.A. Hodges says he can't talk about the case because the litigation is still pending, but says he is sure he did nothing wrong. Hodges said "I will one hundred percent say I did not violate the law."

But Scoccimaro says Phoebe Putney should not be calling in favors to the D.A. office to find and silence their critics, and then pay the bill. He is calling for an investigation into the D.A. Scoccimaro said "It's been improper because normal everyday citizens don't get that kind of favoritism through the D.A.'s office, contrary to what he has to say about it."

Rehberg, Dr. John Bagnato, and Mississippi Private Detective Jim Bowman are charged with five counts of harassing phone calls and battery.

Meanwhile Rehberg is counter suing Phoebe. Scoccimaro says the unsealed documents continue to supply proof that the Factoids allegations of lavish travel spending by hospital administrators were true, and that is why Phoebe reacted so strongly to squash the critics.

Phoebe Putney won't comment because the issues are still in litigation.

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