Judge dismisses 'Factoid' criminal charges - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Judge dismisses 'Factoid' criminal charges

May 2, 2006

Albany -- Charles Rehberg and Dr. John Bagnato say they are celebrating what they feel is vindication for they call whistle blowing against Phoebe Putney Hospital, but they say they have paid a high price for doing it.

Dr. John Bagnato and Charles Rehberg, their wives and lawyers, celebrated the dismissal of what they called "trumped up charges."

"I feel falsely indicted for things that were not even crime, crimes that did not even occur," Rehberg said.

Rehberg and Bagnato wrote the Phoebe Factoid cartoons, critical of management at the community hospital. The Factoid authors made it clear today that they believe Phoebe Putney administrators used the Dougherty District Attorney, Ken Hodges, to file criminal charges of harassing phones calls, assault, and battery, to shut them up.

"Relief that the community better understands that the unholy relationship between the senior management at Phoebe and certain government officials, and the harm that can flow from this type of relationship," said Attorney Ralph Powell.

Bagnato and Rehberg say the Factoids have proven true, and that is what made Phoebe officials go so far to stop them. Bagnato said, "There is a lot of evidence that has come to light that shows that the Factoids were very accurate. In fact to my knowledge, they have never produced one iota of information to refute anything in any of the Factoids."

Judge Harry Altman ruled today that the Georgia harassing phone calls law does not cover faxes, so he dismissed those five charges. He also ruled that the simple assault charge against them was insufficient, and dismissed it as well.

Rehberg attorney Ralph Scoccimaro said "As thankful as we are today that we have Judges who can see through a blatant attempt to manipulate the justice system."

Today they celebrate, but the Factoid authors worry if Special Prosecutor Kelly Burke of Houston County will bring charges again. He told WALB today that he will consider re-filing charges over the next few days.

"Is it over? Or does this go on," asked Bagnato. "Do they re indict us, or bring back other charges?"

Bagnato said he and Rehberg say they have paid a high price in their fight to expose the truth. Both say they will have a tough time finding new jobs after this.

Rehberg still has a lawsuit pending against Phoebe, and lawyers today hinted that further lawsuits could be filed against who they call "the conspirators" in this case.

Phoebe Putney Hospital Spokespersons say it would be inappropriate to comment on the case.

Dougherty District Attorney Ken Hodges also said he had no comment, because it was not his case.

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